When Tim and I first started dating, 23 years ago, I was a little shocked at his first Christmas tree. It was a forlorn looking thing with just a few handmade ornaments from his kids. There were lights, of course, one string of them, but not much else.
We got engaged at Christmas time. After months of telling him I wasn't ever going to marry again, and meaning it with all my heart, he brought the subject up again, just before Christmas. Over come by Christmas joy, I suppose, I found myself looking at him and realizing that what stood in front of me was a good man. Nothing fancy about him, but he was as good a person as I'd ever met, and that being married to him was not going deja vu.
So I said yes.
He looked at me startled.
He clarified that I was agreeing to marriage, and not something like 'Yes, I agree that we should have split pea soup for supper."
I said it again. "Yes. You're a good person. I'm a good person. There's no reason the two of us cannot make a good marriage."
And, quick as a wink, just like that, the man was putting on his boots and headed out the door. I mean, seriously, I don't remember any talking at all. He did give me a kiss, but, boom! he was gone.
I wasn't even sure what had happened. Tim is a quiet man, but the departure had been so abrupt. We were supposed to go to a Christmas party that night. He hadn't said one word about whether he was coming back. I didn't know.
So, we had a quiet supper that night. The kids were all asking why Tim wasn't there. (The man didn't often miss supper.) I had to tell them that I didn't know. We were getting ready to head out the door for that Christmas party when it opened and Tim came walking back in.
I almost cried. He looked surprised, I said "Well. I wasn't sure you were coming back. I didn't know what had happened there. You just walked out the door without a word."
He said, "I've got a big family. I had a lot of calls to make. I needed to tell everyone we were getting married, and your family's party started at 6."
I said, "Tim, honestly, you need to learn how to talk." It was not the first time I'd said that, and 23 years later, it has been a regular theme.
But, I digress. The first glimpse of his forlorn little Christmas tree left me shocked. I looked at him and said, "Tim, I gotta tell you. I've got a lot of Christmas ornaments. You're going to have to commit to a bigger tree." I figured that he'd find out about the Christmas table cloth, table decorations, the wreath made of pine cones from the Black Forest, the creche...no need to spring it on him all at once.
Our first Christmas together was an eye opener for him. Before that I hadn't had room to set everything out in the little apartment. His house had a lot more space. It was way more than he was used to.
But as the years passed, this quiet man got comfortable with boxes dragged down from the attic, Christmas springing from every quiet place. I knew that we'd turned a corner when he went out with the kids to get a Christmas tree. Standing on a slope, the tree appeared to be taller than it actually was.
When he cut it down, he realized his mistake. The kids didn't care. They were all excited, sure they'd gotten the finest Christmas tree we ever had. Tim was mournful. "I got a small tree by mistake." and he confessed it as if he had violated a very basic marital law, like fidelity or something.
We made do. The marriage wasn't over, but he commented over and over during that particular season, that the tree was just not big enough.
Anyways, once again, I have digressed.
Tim had a poor childhood. His father was a minister. There were 6 kids. His mother was a hard working woman who canned and sewed and made do. He doesn't talk about it much, but sometimes, someone will tell me a story that makes me gasp at the glimpse of the meanness of it. One story involved actual going hungry.
And many years later, two middle aged people living a very comfortable middle aged life were walking around an estate sale with their energetic grandson. And Tim discovered a table with two bubble light bulbs. He got very excited. He wanted those light bulbs with a very big want. He was explaining them to William, what they did, and I got a glimpse of a long ago little boy who was fascinated by bubble lights, but lived in a family where that kind of extravagance was frowned upon.
We bought those bubble lights and he brought them home and screwed them into the chandelier. One worked. One did not. But he and William sat and watched it in rapt fascination.
Yesterday, I needed to pick something up, and as is my custom, I stopped at the thrift store to see if they had it there first. Buying second hand is always a better way to go in my mind. And lo, I found what I was looking for. ( I really have good luck that way.) Headed back down the aisle, I saw a bubbling light candelabra. It was still in its box and you could tell it was old. I guesstimated late 40s to early 50s. How often do you see Christmas lights in a cardboard box emblazoned with 'ELECTRIC' as if electric Christmas lights were still a bit of a novelty.
Anyways, I remembered Tim's rapt eyes, and so I bought it. $4.99.
I brought it home and set it up on an end table in the livingroom and tested it. Before long it was bubbling merrily, and when Tim came home from hunting, he was cold and he was tired. I heated up a bowl of soup and some homemade bread for him. He was sitting on his couch in the semidarkness watching the bubble light and his eyes had a far away look. .
"That is really cool," he said.
He ate his hot bowl of soup off the wooden folding table and watched those lights as he ate. I could tell that he was not a 63 year old man coming home to a warm and comfortable life, trying to thaw out after a long cold day in the woods.
He was a little boy once again, and bubble lights were magic.