This year Diane and I are sharing our 40th Christmas together and it has always been our custom to have a fresh tree. We have lived through the aluminum trees with color pin wheels, the white trees, the evolution of artificial Christmas trees and even trees you sprayed with scent so they would smell like trees. Through it all we remained steadfast in our determination to have a live tree. We have visited lots when it was below zero. One year I brought a tree home with the top four feet sticking through the sunroof of our Datsun and the branches sticking out both back windows, with our daughter sitting somewhere in the middle of the whole display! I went to the forest and cut down a tree once. It looked so much better in the forest! Yea, we’ve had some adventures but there is just something about a real tree that makes Christmas come to life in our home and this year, well this year let’s say we love our trees more than ever because of who we got them from.
Last Christmas we stumbled across a lot on a corner in Parker that sold the beautiful old fashioned trees we love. We purchased a beauty and when we took it down in January it was as fresh as the day we bought it, so we were determined to get our trees there again. This year the owner of the tree lot moved the whole thing to his property, Franktown Landscape and we headed down there to look. It didn’t take long for us to find what we wanted and with our selection made we got to making small talk with Hubert Aguirre, owner of the place. Hubert is a character and I find as I get older I’m really drawn to them. I love their passion for life and their ability to tell a story. Hubert told us how he used to sing like Dean Martin for the girls in school and then broke into song. And Hubert talked quietly of his brother Raymond, who on March 27, 1970. Was killed in action in South Vietnam. He talked about how his mother and father were never the same and he talked about how much he missed his brother still. Diane asked him if he had heard of the Colorado Freedom Memorial and Hubert said no so Diane pulled the website up on the computer and there, in the database, showed him his brother’s name, Raymond Aguirre, Panel 18, Row 3, Name 23. Hubert is too tough to cry in front of you, but you could see the tears forming.
We told Hubert that we had been thinking about placing a live Colorado Blue Spruce at the Colorado Freedom Memorial site and selling Dog Tag Ornaments that people could purchase for $10 and we’d write the name of any veteran they’d like on the tag and hang it on the tree. Hubert said you buy one, I’ll give you one and I’ll deliver them for free. It seemed to be a way Hubert could give his brother Christmas, if only by having a tree near his name. We shook hands and as we were getting ready to leave, Hubert said thanks, and started singing, “everybody loves somebody, sometime.” A great character! Yesterday the trees were delivered to the Colorado Freedom Memorial and one of the two men in the truck walked up to the Memorial and asked where Raymond Aguirre’s name was. I walked him to it and after a few minutes of silence he turned to me and said, “I’m Raymond Aguirre also. My Dad named me after his brother.”
This year I see Christmas Trees differently. When I was younger they were the place where the presents appeared after Santa’s visit. As I aged they became the keeper of family heirlooms, ornaments that hung on my Moms tree and her Moms, and those we added that say Baby’s First Christmas and other wonderful symbols of our own growing family. Now these trees remind me that every generation has gathered here, in front of their own trees, during Christmases past and shared joyful celebrations with family. There was laughter, and excitement and surprise and love. They wondered what the journey of the coming year would be liked and prayed they would all gather together again at the tree to share the season. For some, like Raymond Aguirre and the other 5800+ on the Colorado Freedom Memorial, Christmas became a painful memory as they fought for their country far from home, far from the Christmas trees of their youth.
This year, under the soft light of our tree, the one Hubert loaded in the car, I give thanks for the greatest gift I will ever receive, the Freedom that lets me celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas morning and to be gathered around those beautiful trees with my own family. It’s a gift I received from heroes I have never met and I will never sit by the tree again without thinking of them all.
One of my fondest memories of Christmas when I was a kid was Mom and Dad putting together the cardboard fireplace. It was about four feet tall and it had a red brick pattern printed on it and an orange light bulb that you plugged in and when it heated up it made a metal blade rotate causing the light to flicker. It was as close as we ever came to having a fireplace and I’d lay on the floor and just stare at the “flame” until Mom said it was bedtime. I remember our stockings were long beige socks that were part of one of Dad’s military uniforms. No fancy stocking, simple military socks and they were filled with hard candy, ribbon candy, chocolate Santa’s and oranges. And I remember listening to Sing Along with Mitch over, and over and over! I’m from the generation that grew up with Department Stores closed on Sunday’s and everything closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Days. We really didn’t mind because we had plenty to do at home, like play Mousetrap or join the neighbors for a good game of football. And we’d all gather for dinner and then sit side by side on the couch and watch one of the 4 TV channels we got.
This has all been on my mind the last couple weeks because of the incredible pressure everyone is under to leave the dinner table on Thanksgiving and head to the stores. And forget about doing anything at home Friday, that’s Black Friday and you have to shop all day for those great deals. And don’t forget Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. And when Christmas Day comes the #1 present will be gift cards, so everyone can head back to the Malls for more shopping the day after Christmas! Seems to me we’ve kind of lost our values while looking for values. We try to wedge in a Church service or family dinner in December so we can “Remember the reason for the season” but we’ll spend more time reading the ads than we will reading stories of the first Christmas.
I probably would be a club of one but I think it would be cool to call the second Saturday in December Family, Faith and Friends Saturday. Instead of rushing to the store we’d spend time together and enjoy one another’s company. We’d have dinner together, maybe go caroling with the neighbors and have hot chocolate and Christmas cookies. There wouldn’t be the pressure to shop because for this one day the gift would be each others company. And maybe before bed we could share a favorite story of faith. I know, that horse left the barn and you can’t go backwards. I have just reached the place in my life where I worry in our haste for everything being new and better we threw out things that were pretty good to begin with, and necessary to establish values that guided us. I heard today that 90 people were injured in Black Friday fights for bargains. What does that say about us?? I think it says Family, Faith and Friends Saturday might be more necessary than we think. And a sit in front of the old cardboard fireplace would do us all some good.