Christmas memories encapsulate some of the most cherished moments of our childhood. We remember warm family gatherings, presents that delighted us, church services celebrating the Infant’s birth. Often, however, our memories also include grim tableaus seared into our brains by events gone horribly awry. These are the exclamation points rising above the landscape of periods; they are cymbal clashes in the lush, hushed strings of the soundtrack of our youth. And for me, one of the harshest, most discordant cacophonies of my childhood has to be the night the Christmas tree fell.
It began as a Normal Rockwell night. My father had come home from work in a good mood, bolstered by a wonderful hot meal prepared by my mother. Cups of steaming tea for my parents, bittersweet hot chocolate for us kids, helped us forget the December winds blowing outside. Christmas was my mother’s favorite time of year, and I could see the joy of the season in her eyes. The magic day was right around the corner, and my two sisters and I were working ourselves into a frothing frenzy of Yuletide anticipation. Ornaments! Lights! Presents! No school!