Author of Madam, Have You Ever Really Been Happy? An Intimate Journey through Africa and Asia

$100 FOR A CHRISTMAS TREE? YOU’RE OUT OF YOUR MIND!

“$100 for a Christmas tree? You’re out of your mind!” These were the gentle words I used when my daughter, Martha, told me what she paid for a tree in Manitou Springs, Colorado. And she was so excited about her “bargain.”

“When did you last buy a tree, Mother?” Hmmm.

“Well…not since before I moved here. Say, seven, maybe ten years ago. I’ve been using the small artificial one we bought for Chris when he was in the hospital in 2001.” Oops, I could see where this was going. Not hard to realize that I was way behind the times.

The next day my son, Tom, Nature Boy, presented me with a humongous poinsettia that dwarfed the dining room table, along with a huge fir tree for the bargain price of only $52.00, tax included. “Don’t worry, Mom. You only have to pay half.” He’s always been a stickler for fairness.

Where have I been? What planet am I living on? When will this insane inflation stop? Cool it, Meg, it ain’t gonna.

Tom bought a stand at the thrift store for $3.00 and secured the tree, which reached to the ceiling. It was gorgeous…dense, dark green, fragrant. I sat down in the living room to read my New Yorker, but after a few pages I stopped. The tree held me. It took over. There seemed to be nothing else in the room. And it was completely bare, as if it were still in the woods. Just the tree.

I had retrieved my decorations from storage, but they sat on the deep window sills, unopened. There was no hurry. No children coming, no stockings, no family gathering, no presents under the tree, and not even a white sheet for snow. But I was too taken by the serenity and aloneness of this natural wonder to care.

The next day Tom bought two strings of lights and wrapped them around the lower part of the tree. We needed more, but this would do for today. The lights shone through the needles while outside the fog of Whidbey Island rolled in, and I sat and meditated, letting my whole body relax into the silence.

It is now my fourth day with what has become the unspoken symbol of Christmas, solstice, new beginnings, change, hope. I can see growth and promise emerging from what has, over the past year, been a dreadful disconnection for most of us and a painful loss for many more. This singular meditation for these few days has opened me up and calmed me down.

And filled me with gratitude and love, which I share with you, my dear friends.

May each of you find your own special tree to carry you into the New Year.

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8 Comments

  1. … when I grow up I wanna be like Meg,
    I wonder if DNA CRISPR …

  2. RB

    In NYC a few years ago, we were tree shopping at one of the seasonal vendors that set up on the streets after Thanksgiving. After picking out a fragrant spruce from a fragrant hawker, it was time to bargain. “How much?” Instead of looking at the tree he looked us up and down, and, after some internal deliberations (I would have paid double whatever price he was about to quote to see a thought balloon over his head) he pitched:
    “$150.”
    “Is it self-decorating?”
    “What?”
    “We’ll give you a hundred.”
    “I won’t respect myself tomorrow if I go over 110.”
    “I can’t let I go for less than 135. I won’t break even”
    “Hang onto it then.”
    I resolved to dress down next year and get the bedraggled discount, but, like most of my resolutions, nothing came of it. And this year because of covid there is maybe one vendor where five or more set up shop in years past, so had we been in the market, we would have gladly paid $150 or more just to regain the normal NYC feeling of overpaying some shrewd stranger on the street for something that would soon have no value. Thanks for your post that reminded me of this little bit of normal in this very abnormal year.

  3. Judy Wyman Kelly

    Love picturing you and your tree! I became a fake tree convert about 5 years ago much to my surprise! I love that you can have it up for several months without worrying about it being a fire hazard. Also love that I don’t need to water it!

  4. Martha Peterson

    I, too, sit quietly in wonder at our tree. Yes – the $100 tree mentioned in your story! 🙂 The lights remind me of all those around the world, connected by our humanness. I appreciate the ritual and the peace this Christmas symbol brings!

  5. Wendy Ashford

    Hi Meg! catching up with your blog. Will you share a photo of your tree?. We don’t have a tree this year. We hung lights around the window that faces the water and have poinsettias. In years past, we bought living trees that we can plant afterward. I

  6. Russell

    In NYC a few years ago, we were tree shopping at one of the seasonal vendors that set up shop on the streets after Thanksgiving. After picking out a fragrant spruce from a fragrant hawker, it was time to bargain.
    – How much?
    Instead of looking at the tree he looked us up and down and, after some internal deliberations (I would have paid double whatever price he was about to quote to see a thought balloon over his head) he pitched.
    -150.
    – Is it self-decorating?
    – What?
    – We’ll give you 100.
    – 140
    – I won’t respect myself tomorrow if I pay more than 110.
    – I can’t let it go for less than 135. I won’t break even.
    – Hang onto it then.
    I resolved to dress down next year and get the bedraggled discount, but, like most of my resolutions, nothing came of it. And this year because of covid there is maybe one vendor where five or more set up shop in years past, so had we been in the market, we would have gladly paid $150 or more just to recapture the normal NYC feeling of overpaying some shrewd stranger on the street for something that would soon have no value. Thanks for your post that brought back this memory in this very abnormal year.

  7. Doug

    So lovingly scripted.

    “The lights shone through the needles while outside the fog of Whidbey Island rolled in, and I sat and meditated, letting my whole body relax into the silence.”

    You are the light that continues to shine for so many. Embrace the silence, but for humanity’s sake, keep the prose flowing!

  8. Jane Avery

    Meg,
    Denise and I are sitting here in our living room in our ocean house, in front of the fireplace of course! And we are reminiscing about our many years knowing you and your family. Please know that we both treasure all those memories! Thank you for keeping in touch!! Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season! Hugs from us both.
    Jane

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