A Most Unusual Christmas Tree
Visitors who come to our home near the holidays are often struck by the sight of a most unusual Christmas tree. Instead of a fir or some other traditional kind, we have a palm tree. It is decorated with Christmas lights and ornaments, and is topped by a strange-looking star made of cardboard covered by several layers of aluminum foil and tape. All five of the star’s points are somewhat different in shape, size, and angle.
That tree and star have a very special place in my heart, and each has a story…
About seven years ago our young teenage daughter was stricken with an “incurable” disease and nearly died. She spent about a month in the hospital, much of it intensive care fighting for her life. She had to deal with an awful disease as well as many blood transfusions and the side-effects of the chemotherapy, steroids, and other harsh medications. She met each challenge, disappointment and setback with courage and class.
Eventually, the disease went into remission and she began to dream of having a party and bonfire for her 16th birthday at the beach with her friends, relatives, and beloved dog Ginger. It took quite a bit of searching, but we finally found a beach that had all the necessary attributes including allowing dogs and bonfires, and that was easy to access for elderly relatives.
A week before her party, the disease flared up and 15 glorious months of remission ended.
Then, at 9pm the night before the party, a friend called with some news that turned our plans upside down. He’d just heard that the small beach that we’d selected and the surrounding beaches were about to be overwhelmed by a 30,000 person event
that would essentially close them to a private party when we’d planned to be there.
So that beach was out and no other beach within a reasonable driving distance had all of the attributes required to make her dream come true.
Our daughter had her heart set on having her family and friends, dog, and a bonfire at the beach, but as usual she didn’t complain. In her young life she has had to deal with much worse things than a spoiled birthday party. But it was just the final straw on a mountain of straws that finally broke the camel’s back. She sat down and quietly began to cry.
She then quickly decided that she’d rather have the party at our home so that she could at least have her dog, relatives, friends, and a bonfire. We began making the calls to invitees about the changed plans.
When guests began arriving at our home (which is about 30 miles from the nearest beach) the next day they were surprised to find a sign that read:
“Welcome to (our) Beach, where Dogs and Bonfires are Welcome. Where the beach is small and the waves are so far away that you need to close your eyes to see them, but not the love for (our daughter) and her little dog too. Happy Birthday!”
Laid out before them was the smallest, goofiest beach you ever saw, but it had been built with love. Our friends had at a moment’s notice dreamt up creating a beach in our backyard. They had surprised us by arriving several hours earlier
with a car loaded down with 660 pounds of sand, a palm tree, beach toys, fish netting, Tiki Torches and much more. Our friends and son had then helped to set everything up.
The beach was built with so much love that it quickly became real to everyone there. The birthday girl and her friends frolicked in the sand, had a barbecue, built their own huge ice cream sundaes, and splashed in the water of a little pool. Then as night fell they lit the Tiki torches and enjoyed a great bonfire.
In the dark, by the light of the torches and bonfire, and with the splashing sounds from those playing in the water of the small wading pool in the background, the scene had indeed seemed to magically transform into a beach.
That night as the girls laughed and played on the “beach” around the bonfire with our funny little dog, I felt for a moment that all was right in the world, and was very grateful to our friends for making our daughter’s birthday wish come true after all.
A couple of months later, as the holidays neared, our daughter suggested that we use the palm tree that helped make the “beach” so special instead of getting a Christmas tree. We liked the idea so much that it is now the tree we use most every year.
The story of the star that sits atop the tree goes back over thirty years. This post is already too long so I’ll save that one for another post.