The year was 1976. It was our first Christmas as a married couple. My husband was in the Army, stationed in Junction City, Kansas, and we had made our first nest as man and wife in a small trailer set on blocks in a trailer park outside of the army base. Needless to say, money was tight as we decorated for our first Christmas.
We had been budgeting carefully for the weeks leading up to December in anticipation of buying our first Christmas tree. We pocketed our saved dollars and headed to the tree lot filled with giddy excitement at the thought of our first evergreen purchase. Once at the lot, filled with the scent of the joy of the season, we bought the largest tree our twenty dollars would buy and struggled to strap it to the top of our Ford Pinto wagon (with vintage wood paneling, of course!). The real struggle awaited us at our tiny trailer home. The narrow doorway posed quite a challenge as we struggled to squish the tree through to the small living area. Breathless from exertion, we exploded into laughter as we viewed the result of our efforts. Our narrow living area that had barely contained a small couch and coffee table, now was filled with fragrant greenery that seemed to touch the walls and scrape the low ceiling. You could touch the tree from the doorway. We had never considered the size of the tree needing to fit within our living space….and actually give us room to live!
But, we had our tree, and our trailer was filled with wall to wall evergreen spirit. Now, we were faced with a new dilemma. We had spent our entire twenty dollar budget for Christmas decorating on our magnificent tree. We had no money left to decorate. So, we decided that we would be industrious and string popcorn to hang from the massive boughs. Hours later, we had a few inches of popcorn that hung forlornly, and bits of broken popcorn at our feet. We abandoned the idea and decided we would just enjoy our tree in its natural splendor.
In a fit of inspiration, I grabbed a piece of cardboard and cut out the shape of a star. I covered the star in foil and put a small piece of star shaped, red wrapping paper in the center where I wrote the year 1976. We placed it at the top of the tree and admired our first Christmas efforts. It was a lean Christmas, but, as is often the case when money is tight, it was rich in love and memories. At the end of the season, the tree, now dry and brittle, was discarded, but the star was thrown into a box and saved.
The next year my husband wrote 1977 on the star and insisted it be put at the top of the tree again. And so began a Christmas tree tradition…the Christmas star. I have thought often over the last 40 years how I wish that I had spent more time and effort on our star, now tattered and filled with years of Christmas past. But I have come to realize that the tattered star is filled with memories…
It has kept watch over us as a couple in our many rented abodes before we purchased our first home, it graced the tree of our daughter’s first Christmas, it heard her squeals as she excitedly looked to see what Santa had brought her, it holds the love of both sets of our parents (some gone now) as they celebrated the season with us. Now that our daughter is grown, she returns home to help decorate tree after Thanksgiving. As we dig through the Christmas box, selecting ornaments that will dazzle the eye, invariably she will dig until she finds the most treasured family ornament of all…the Christmas Star.