Volume XI, Issue 51 ~ December 18-24, 2003

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Bay Reflections

Our First Christmas
by Connie Darago

It’s time to deck those walls, halls and hang those Christmas balls on the Christmas tree.

Of course at our house it is not just any Christmas tree, but a huge, perfectly shaped, glorious one.

As I prepare the Darago household for its 37th Christmas, my mind wanders back to that first Christmas.

It was 1966. Vietnam was raging. War protesters lined the streets in cities across America and free love, drugs and rock ’n’ roll were thriving. But we gave little thought to the world around us as we planned for all the firsts that year. First Christmas as husband and wife, first Christmas in our first home, a cozy little apartment in Southwest D.C. And with his early arrival, the first Christmas with our beautiful son Eric, only 16 days old.

Tradition, we decided, would be a big part of our Christmas. We’d have a grand tree. A soft needle pine. None of those prickly cedars we’d grown up with. And we’d decorate it Christmas Eve as a family.

Our budget was tight. There was rent, electricity and food, and we were trying to get our 1965 Chevelle back on the road after a bad Beltway accident the previous summer. So we decided to buy a few trimmings each payday and the tree on Christmas Eve. Brightly colored glass ornaments, bubble lights and icicles soon peeked from bags stacked in the corner awaiting their unveiling.

Finally Christmas Eve arrived. As George left with his brother that Christmas Eve morning, he promised to find a good tree and be home in plenty of time to decorate it.

But that was not to be. By noon snow was falling. By 3pm flakes as big as silver dollars fell from the gray heavens. Weather forecasters declared an official blizzard.

Blizzard or not, I still had to get George a gift. So I bundled the baby, carried him to his grandmother’s and struck out for the mile-and-a-half walk to buy his present. I had little trouble maneuvering the downhill trip. I rushed into J.C. Penney’s, bought the wallet I’d been saving for and started back.

Howling winds and snowdrift-covered sidewalks slowed my return. It was almost seven o’clock when I got home to no sign of George. I grew concerned. Would he be able to get home in the blizzard? Would we spend our first Christmas apart? What about our tree? The questions circled my mind like the stripes on the candy canes near the space cleared for the tree.

Moments later, a knock took me to the front door. There stood my sister-in-law with a little ceramic Christmas tree. ‘Merry Christmas,’ she announced as she, hubby Carl and finally George entered.

My heart sank as George told his story. He’d stopped at a couple of tree stands, but the trees were too expensive so he decided to wait until later in the day. By then, the blizzard had forced sellers to shut their stands and leave early. There was no tree.

So as I hang the last decorations on this year’s glorious tree, tiny paper snowmen, all that’s left of those first decorations, I remember how we rejoiced in many firsts that Christmas so long ago. But not our first Christmas tree. That had to wait until our second Christmas.

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Last updated December 18, 2003 @ 2:59am.