The Memory Tree

photoThe season of celebration is here again and we’ve just decorated our tree.  It is weighted down with forty-five years of collected ornaments.

My ‘tree delight’ started when I was a little girl.  I grew up on a farm in Southern Mississippi and my sister, Lynda, who was 81/2 years older, always made decorating the tree so much fun.  My dad cut the tree from our land and once he had it well ‘planted” in an old bucket and dragged into the living room, my sister took over. She beat ivory flakes and water together until it turned to snow and she and I ‘flocked’ the tree. (did any of you do that??) We then strung our big bulbed multi-colored lights amidst the ‘snow’ covered branches and hung our few ornaments.   We finished it by draping ice-cycles all over it. Then we’d call Mother and Daddy to come see our masterpiece.  (Oh, and occasionally after the holidays we had to clean that ‘flock’ off the paneled walls because our “throwed” snow missed it’s mark.) What precious memories.

Today, my prize ornament is one from that farm house tree.  It’s the only ornament left and most of it’s paint is eaten away by both time and that ivory snow. When I look at it, it transports me back to a long ago Christmas – 1975 to be exact.  It  hung on the last Christmas tree ever put up in the farm-house.

I wrote “His Perfect Timing” years ago because I never wanted to forget His faithfulness  and I’d like to share it with you today…particularly since my mom is spending her first Christmas in Heaven this year.  I hope you enjoy the story.

His Perfect Timing

Christmas 1975  – Pam Taylor

Christmas was approaching and I’d just marked off “make a batch of peanut brittle” from my long to-do-list when the phone rang.

“Pam, I hate to have to tell you this, but I have bad news. Daddy’s visit to the doctor didn’t go well,” my brother Jerry’s voice broke as he shared his news. “Daddy has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The doctor thinks it’s malignant and scheduled surgery for December 17th.”

Stunned by the news, I hung up the phone as tears streamed down my face. I leaned against the kitchen counter as I attempted to assimilate the news. Daddy had always been very healthy but he’d recently experienced numbness in his right arm. My husband had a pinched nerve and my daddy’s symptoms were similar so I assumed that was what he was dealing with.

The year before, he’d retired from his lifelong career of teaching school. He wanted to add a new bedroom onto the house and that was his first retirement project. He’d cut down several trees and had them milled into lumber as he prepared to add the addition. I was so sure the hard work was the culprit of the numbness that I’d not given much thought to any other possibility so the news stunned me with both grief and anger.

“Lord,” I cried, “I don’t understand. If this had to happen, why couldn’t it have been after the holidays? Why couldn’t we have had a special Christmas? The timing couldn’t be worse.”

It was my first Christmas since I’d moved to Oklahoma and become a mom that my family and I were going to be able to spend Christmas with my mother and daddy.  I’d carefully planned every detail. We’d sent airplane tickets to them so they could fly up and see our new home. Then we’d all travel together to Mississippi in time to spend Christmas on the farm.

How quickly things had fallen apart. Chunking my once important to-do-list into the trash, I called the airlines and canceled my parent’s plane tickets. Then I tearfully called my husband. He, too, was as shocked as I with the news. He urged me to get a plane ticket for Mississippi. He’d drive down as soon as his vacation time started.

A few days later, I boarded a plane with a diaper bag slung over one shoulder and my chubby little boy, Ben, on my hip. The flight seemed to take forever. As the plane descended, I caught a glimpse of the lush green pines of Mississippi. I held Ben tight as grief washed over me and tears streamed down my face.  My shoulders ached from the stress and so did my heart as the plane landed.

“Lord,” I cried again,” why did this have to happen at Christmas? Please let Daddy be okay! Let Ben grow up knowing my dad. Let him get to do fun things with Daddy—like hunt Christmas trees.” A carousel of distressing thoughts continued to circle through my head as I debarked the plane.

To make matters worse, the Jackson hospital was almost two hours from my parent’s home. It was too far to drive back and forth, so my sister and brothers rented motel rooms the first night so we’d be near my dad. The extra cost strained all of our budgets.

“Some Christmas, Lord.”

On the second day of my dad’s hospital stay, a legislator from our hometown visited us. He was a family friend who had grown up on the farm next to ours. Preparing to leave, he pulled a key from his pocket and handed it to us.

“The legislature is officially on break now, and my two roommates and I are headed home today. If you need it, our apartment is yours through the rest of December. It’s not far from the hospital.”

We checked out of our motel rooms and located the apartment. Each of the three bedrooms had private baths and the apartment was furnished with a washer and dryer. When my sister and I weren’t at the hospital, we shopped for Christmas presents. We all took turns staying with our dad, and we shared many sweet times together, not only at the hospital, but also in our borrowed home.

On Christmas Eve, the doctor dismissed my dad. When we arrived home, someone had brought us a fresh-cut pine tree. My sister and I decorated it late that night. Neighbors and friends had filled the house with wonderful Southern food. We had a very special Christmas after all.

Today as I recall how I railed at God about his timing, I am humbled. My sister and her husband lived out-of-state and were schoolteachers. They were on Christmas break. My husband and I had scheduled our vacation time, too, because of our planned trip. At no other time of the year would the apartment have been available, nor would we all have had vacation time. It’s been thirty-eight years since that long ago Christmas, but the memories and lessons are etched in my heart. Although it was my dad’s last Christmas, he had all of his kids gathered around him as we drew close to God and to each other. And I learned that while unexpected things may blind side me, they never blind side God. His timing is perfect. (The End!)

Reading this story reaffirms to me how faithful God has been throughout my life.  His Mercies are new every morning no matter what comes our way.

 Here are a few of the memories on our tree.  The first pic is of the old ornament.  The second and third are of my daughter, Jan,  who celebrated her first Christmas in Heaven in 2006.  The last pic is an ornament I made as a young bride. It hung on my first tree in 1970 and is a pic of my mom and dad and me.   Love to you, Pam

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