Jo Ann J. Lovelace
It was six in the evening and the wind had already commenced to blow. Growing in strength sand beat against the windows. I didn't bother looking out the window anymore. I had become accustomed to the New Mexico deserts wrath. The dust storms were rarely late and the dust filtered through every crack in the house.
I was putting the vacuum cleaner in the closet when my husband Roy came through the door.
"How was your day?" He asked, putting his arm around my shoulder. "I hope it went smoother than mine."
"Things were pretty much as usual here," I answered. "Where did the dust storm catch you today?"
"I was about five miles from home," he said. "I see you've already cleaned up the mess."
He spent his off days working at a used trailer sales nearby. We needed the money to buy Christmas gifts for the kids. We couldn't get each other a gift that year but being together was more than sufficient.
Deep within my thoughts as I prepared supper I hadn't realized I was beating the potatoes to a pulp until Roy spoke to me.
"I can see we're having pulverized potatoes for supper tonight," he laughed. "You're still worried about getting the kids a Christmas tree, aren't you? Don't worry we'll think of something."
We were accustomed to seeing acres of whispering pine trees and beautiful plump cedars growing in Tennessee. It never was a problem finding a suitable tree back home.
There wasn't enough money to buy a tree. Groceries, utilities and rent consumed all our income. I was discouraged and depressed seeing nothing but sand with a few straggly bushes that I didn't even recognize growing here and there along the roads.
My thoughts strayed back to Roy joining the Air Force. I could visualize the determined look on his face that day. I could hear every word he said as he came through the door. He hung his coat in the closet and threw his hat on a chair.
"No one's hiring. I tried getting work every place in town. I'm enlisting in the Air Force tomorrow," he stated matter of factly. "At least the pay will be regular there."
We had a tiny pine tree that year; I managed to cut the straggly little bush from our back yard. A dozen yellow ornaments and a raggedly gold rope were the only decorations hanging from its spindly branches.
"A penny for your thoughts," Roy said interrupting my trip down memory lane. "Are you still pondering on how we'll get a tree?"
"We'll simply have to hike up to the Sandia Mountains," I said determined. "There should be some kind of bush growing there that we can use for a Christmas tree."
"I'll hike up to the mountains and check it out in the morning," Roy answered.
"Kids, it's time to eat," I said. "You can play with your toys after supper."
They scurried to the table anxious to finish eating so they could continue the barn they had started building with their blocks.
After supper I did the dishes and straightened up the kitchen. I noticed the time and went to the living room.
"You should have already been in bed Kids," I said affectionately. "Put your toys away and I'll tuck you in."
Sharon, Keith and Michael sprang to their feet. They gathered their toys and placed them carefully in the toy box.
I listen to their prayers then tucked them in and gave each one a kiss before turning out the lights. They're fantastic kids, I thought. I don't care what kind of species Roy finds tomorrow. It'll have to do for our Christmas tree this year.
I was awaken around midnight by the wind roaring like a train speeding through on a quite night. Oh, no, I thought, dust will be everywhere to be cleaned up in the morning. The weatherman on K.O.B. did warn that a cold front would be moving through. I was too exhausted to worry about the clean up chore and drifted back to sleep.
When the alarm clock shook me from a deep sleep the house was dark. If it hadn't been for the clocks deafening clatter I would have thought it was still the middle of the night. I opened the drapes and much to my surprise the windows were covered with tumbleweeds.
Roy managed to get the door open wide enough to squeeze through and removed the tangled brush from the entrance.
After breakfast he went out prepared to clean up the mess. The tumbleweeds delicate limbs shattered into a zillion pieces it seemed as he pulled and tugged separating their snarled branches.
I watched as he started to remove a huge one. "Be careful," I shouted. "I want that one for a Christmas tree."
He managed to get the tumbleweed free without damaging its fragile body. He whittled the butt of the tumbleweed until it was sharp like the pointed end of a spear, so it would fit into the rustic red brick we had found buried beneath the sand. We covered the brick with an old worn out bedraggled snowy white diaper and presto we magnificently created imitation snow.
The Kids watched in awe as the popcorn puffs were daftly sewn together to create cottontail bunny rabbits, billowy fluffy sheep and the traditional popcorn rope.
Later in the day we went to the PX to get some needed items. Sharon noticed a box of red ornaments sitting all alone on a shelf. They were about the size of a nickel and had been marked down to ten cents.
"Can we get them Momma?" She asked. "They'd look so pretty on our tree."
"You're right honey they would look pretty on our tree," I said. "We'll get them then our Christmas decorations will be complete."
I regretted we couldn't afford to buy film for our old dilapidated camera that someone had given us years before for Christmas. I desperately wanted to get pictures of the kids standing in front of our unusual Christmas tree.
"Our trees going to be prettier than Punky's," the kids chanted all the way home. Talking about their best friend.
"Momma can we hang the red balls on the tree?" Sharon asked, her dark blue eyes sparkling in anticipation. "Can we?" The other two squealed in unison as we came through the front door.
I took the tiny red ornaments from the bag. "Sure you can," I said. "After all it is your tree."
"We've got the prettiest tree in the whole wide world," Michael said as he hung the last ornament on the tree. "I bet Santa's going to like it."
Christmas morning the kids were out of bed before sunrise. "Daddy, Momma, Santa's has already come," they all chattered at the same time. "Can we open our presents now?"
We dragged our tired bodies out of bed and stumbled to the living room. The kid's faces glowed with happiness and delight as they tore the paper to shreds opening their gifts.
We learned to love the desert of New Mexico even though it had a nasty habit of strowing dust throughout our home. We dreaded the time coming when we would have to leave. We'll always treasure the memories of our first Christmas there.
Today I look at our eight-foot Christmas tree. Its branches strong and full of dark green needles. An angel sits on the top limb. A silver halo sparkles above her head casting a glow on her white hair that wraps neatly around her shoulders. The lengthy limbs hang full of colorful ornaments. An abundance of gifts lie beneath it but some how it doesn't quite measure up to our Tumbleweed Christmas.
Copyright © 1998 Jo Ann Lovelace. All Rights Reserved.