It’s that time of year again when folks are spread too thin. So many events pull at them—school programs, shopping, get-togethers, and parties. For many, Christmas pageants or performances by children are staples for a complete holiday season. I remember a long time ago when Jim and I were involved those productions.
Beaver Ridge United Methodist Church always put on a big children’s program at Christmas. Two women, Mrs. Kirkland and Mrs, Marr, worked for weeks to put the show together. Children met
weekly to practice the songs for the program. The women found patience with squirming children who would have much rather been expending after-school energy playing touch football or riding bikes.
Mother worked to produce capes for the children. They looked like the ones that are wrapped around the shoulders of Christmas statues of carolers. She was a stay-at-home mother back until we started school and spent hours at the sewing machine making more capes to accommodate growing numbers of children who would perform.
On Sunday morning, we children faced a combination of excitement and nervousness. Standing in front of a packed church brought about butterflies, and some kids decided at the last minute that they wanted no part of the program. They burst into tears, and after efforts to comfort them failed, someone hustled them off to parents.
Most of the songs were familiar carols of the season. We stood stick straight and kept our eyes fixed upon Mrs. Kirkland, who led us in song. Moms and dads and grandparents oohed and aahed as smiles spread across their faces. The entire thing seemed to have lasted for hours, but the truth is that no more than twenty minutes were devoted to the program.
Jim and I, on occasion, sang solo parts. I’m not sure that we sang that well, but we were volunteered, and folks must have thought a set of twins singing was cute. As we grew older, we joined Mike Guinn in special songs. One I remember best was our singing “We Three Kings.” Nerves kicked in and voices choked as we stood in front of the congregation and performed. Yes, we made it, but all three of us stood there red faced and anxious.
Some of the best friends I ever had were included in that children’s choir. In addition to Mike Guinn, Jimmy Love and Mike Hill were there. All the boys fell over themselves as they tried to gain the favor of girls like Randy Butler and Nancy Marshall. As it turned out, all of us attended high school at Karns and remained friends, at least until graduation.
My children participated in Christmas programs at First Christian Church. I remember Uncle Tim sitting with a group of little ones as he related the Christmas story. The kids sang, hung christmons on the tree, and placed greenery throughout the church. My pride gushed as they completed their parts and as the program ushered in the Christmas season for the congregation and our family.
I miss the times when I was young and enjoyed participating in those programs. These days, my voice is just about gone, and I struggle to sing without it cracking. I miss being with my twin brother much of the time and long for family members who have passed. I would love to go back for one Sunday to watch my own children sing and read during a Christmas service. Too, I miss the friends from Beaver Ridge. I’ve not seen most of them in too many years.

I’ll listen to children sing again this year, and maybe I’ll even bribe my grandson Madden to sing “Away in a Manger” or “Silent Night.” The Christmas spirit stirs within me when I just begin thinking about those long ago times and the songs that we sang. Even this many years later, the child in me sometimes tries to sneak out. It feels good. 

O Christmas Tree

The other evening, Amy sent me to her car to lug in the new Christmas tree for our home. The one we have now is so large that it takes two tree bags to store, and the darn thing weighs a ton, too much for me to wrestle in and out of the house. Just like for most folks, however, a Christmas tree is an integral part of our holiday.
The best trees came when I was a boy. Mother would decide the time had arrived to put a tree up, and we three boys, along with her for the first few years, traipsed over the fields that our neighbor owned. After searching for a while, we’d spy the perfect one. Dal would saw the thing down and we’d take turns dragging it back to the house. With a great deal of effort, we trimmed the bottom limbs and leveled the trunk into the stand.
The scent from those cedar Christmas trees filled the house. We decorated them as a family and then, when the job was finished, we turned off every other light in the house and plugged in the lights. Something magical happened as if lighting the tree also jump started the Christmas season. The cedar stayed until after New Year’s Day, and then it was stripped and taken to the burn pile in the back yard. For the next year the tree remained in our thoughts as we stepped on burr-like fragments that were trapped in the carpet.
When our children arrived, the family would drive to Topside Road for our Christmas trees. We’d hunt acres of greenery to find one that was full enough, tall enough, and cheap enough for us. A helper would dig around the tree and wrap burlap around the dirt ball. I’d rupture myself loading the thing into the car and then transporting it into the house. Lacey and Dallas decorated the tree with special ornaments they’d made at daycare or school. Just as in my childhood, I made them wait until the tree was decorated before turning on the lights.
After the season, I once again hoisted the tree and headed outside. We planted one tree in the front yard, and it thrived and grew large. However, at some point, its roots began to infringe on the water line. I took a saw and, with a heart full of regret, cut the tree. It was too much like losing a good friend or family member because it always sparked holiday memories.
At some point, we gave in and bought an artificial tree. It seemed easier than always searching for a tree and then worrying about keeping it watered enough to prevent a fire. I thought that such a fake tree would smother Christmas, but to my surprise, our Christmases were every bit as merry and joyful. Yes, I missed the smell of cedar and pine in the house, but we stacked presents under that tree and watched as our excited children tore open boxes from Santa.
Now we spend time in Nashville during Christmas. That means we must also put up a tree in the condo where we stay. It’s one of those small ones from Dollar General Store. Guess what! It works just as well. We put gifts in the floor under the table where the tree sits. The entire family doesn’t seem to mind the pitiful “Charlie Brown” tree.
Yes, we have a new tree at home this year. It’s smaller and more manageable, but it still helps usher
in the Christmas season. One year not long ago, I declared that we wouldn’t put up a tree in Knoxville since we would be out of town on Christmas. It was another one of my bone-headed dictates. That year, Christmas never quite managed to work its way into our home, hearts, or lives.

From now on, a tree will be set up in our home during Christmas. We’ll decorate it, even if we only can enjoy it for a couple of days. Just like a nativity scene, a Christmas tree seems to be a focal point of the special season and something around which family and friends can gather. My only hope is that Snoop doesn’t take it upon himself to water this artificial tree while we are at work.