Holiday Reflections: A Tale Of Two Trees

Dec 21, 2017

Maggie Mullen with her brother, Conor, on the front porch of their mom's house.
Credit Susie Scott

This holiday season, the Wyoming Public Radio news team is sharing stories about memories and traditions that stand out to them.

 

 

It was our first Christmas at 318 East 13th Street in Casper. That summer, my mom had become a first-time homeowner.  

My brother, Conor, and I were really excited.

We had our own rooms. There was a yard where our mutt, Baxter, could run around. But most of all, we were finally living in the same neighborhood as our friends, and the school we both went to, Dean Morgan Junior High School. Go comets!

It was exciting for my mom, too. She was a single parent and had worked really hard to save up enough money to buy a house, and this one was perfect. Built in the 1920s, the front door was painted a bright violet color, and it opened up to a sunroom with southern facing windows that let in the perfect amount of light.

My mom has worn a lot of different hats--paralegal, political campaign organizer, radio station manager, just to name a few.

She’s also an artist, and in the new house, she finally had a room of her own where she could paint.

But the house came with stresses, too. We looked a little out of place in our new neighborhood. It was much nicer than the one we’d lived in before.

That Christmas, like the many before, we set out to buy a real tree.

When we went to the Safeway parking lot, where Boy Scout Troop 60 was selling trees that year, my brother and I found the largest, roundest, fullest one we could, and insisted that our new house was worthy of such a tree. My mom obliged, and we strapped the tree to the roof of our Toyota Camry and drove home.

Once we were able to squeeze the tree through our backdoor, up the stairs, and into our living room, we noticed that it would be difficult to put a star on the top branch because it was squished against the ceiling. So we did some trimming, and strung lights through its thick branches and hung our prized ornaments. It made the entire house smell like Casper Mountain. It was magical!

But the tree didn’t really fit in the space, it was cramped quarters. We’d been overzealous.

At least twice when Conor and I were at school, and my mom was at work, our dog knocked the tree over. We’d come home, prop it back up, sweep up the needles, and replace any of the broken bulbs.

Each time this happened, we would have to re-do the screws in the christmas tree stand, making more holes in the trunk of the tree, and it’s fate all that more precarious.

And on Christmas Eve, the tree took its last tumble.

My mom was in the shower, and Conor and I were horsing around with Baxter. Like most kids on the night before Christmas, we were eager to see our grandparents, and to open up our presents. We also probably had a lot of sugar, and in a game of tag, when one of us flew too close to the spruce and it crashed down, we knew we couldn’t blame the dog. We’d already been asked to stop goofing around for the last time.

So we sat quietly on the couch, and waited for our mom to come upon the scene. And when she did, with her hair still wet from the shower, she didn’t say a word. That’s how we knew we were really in trouble. And in one fell swoop, she picked up the tree and disappeared out of the living room.

This was truly a feat of strength. My mom is no taller than 5 foot 1 and she was carrying the tree like it was inflated with air.

She’d decided that she had had enough of this particular tree, and so, she threw it in the alleyway next to our dumpster. Then she got in her car, drove to walmart, and picked up a pre-lit, artificial tree with a non-topple guarantee.

This tree was about the same size as the first one. It was just as tall, just as round, but way more symmetrical, and it smelled like plastic.

Somewhere between the living room and the dumpster, my mom had salvaged the ornaments that were left on the first tree. When she got home with our new tree, my mom, Conor, and I spent Christmas Eve carefully re-decorating it. My mom lit an evergreen candle, and we decided that the fake tree looked real enough.

My mom has since moved to another town and ditched the fake tree, but when I find myself in Casper, I make sure I drive by 318 East 13th Street. The door is still bright violet.