The Darker Side of Trimming the Tree

1 12 2008

Christmas (3) 

“What exactly is the point of having a Christmas tree?” enquired one of the neighborhood boys. 

“Um… I don’t know.”  I said fighting with the Christmas tree stand from underneath the tree, while glass ornaments took suicidal jumps off the branches and onto the floor, and the CD player hummed “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”  For a moment, the reason anyone ever bothered decorating seemed to have escaped me.         

“Don’t people normally take their trees down after Christmas?” he asked again staring at the lopsided tree that was standing in our living room with amusement. 

“We’re not taking it down.” Ian, my copartner in tree trimming, answered.  “We’re just… well… starting over again.” 

“You know,” I said while picking tinsel and pine needles out of my hair, “we’ve been working on this silly tree for the past four hours. We’ve had to take all the ornaments off it, and it still doesn’t even stand up straight!” Why do we have Christmas trees?  The word “fun” seems to be coming to mind, but who knows.  

With an “I’m an adult, I can handle it!” attitude Ian and I had set out to make sure the house didn’t burn down, and somehow the Christmas tree was set up by the end of the day.

We threw our hearts into setting up the tree, and in return, the tree threw itself onto our younger sister, the cat, the coffee table, and it threw most of the ornaments onto the living room floor. We even attempted tying our unruly tree to the wall, but it made it clear it was going to have no part of that by pulled the nails out and threatened to rip a hole in the wall if we dared do it again.           

After several hours of blood, sweat and tinsel, we never did successfully “trim the tree.”  When mom returned home, the tree was completely stripped and lying on the floor as if it’d been attacked by a roaming gage of marauders. But in a flash of mother magic, the tree was standing straight in its stand, the garlands were hung with care, and the ornaments were artistically arranged on every branch. Our five hour tree trimming extravaganza had been outdone in a matter of minutes, but at least someone had finally put that tree in its place.

This year, as our countless felines run throughout the house, I’m afraid this year’s tree might not have a Christmas ghost of a chance of staying in its stand. Maybe I’ll settle for a Christmas fern.

Happy holidays, and may all your Christmas trees stay up! clip_image001

The Cow That Ate Baby Jesus

10 12 2007

j0227579 (2)

Copyright 2007 Kelsey Hough.  All Rights Reserved. 

Paper snowflakes and candy canes hung from the ceiling, the windows were now the stage for two dimensional holiday scenes, and a small, wooden nativity sat in a corner.  It was just about as festive and tacky as a two-year-old Sunday school classroom can be in the middle of December … and the kids loved it.

The majority of my small class played with the wooden nativity scene as they acted out the Christmas story — with some minor artistic licensing, unless of course, there was a Lego family and a T-Rex present at Jesus’ birth.

“Teacher, do cows eat this stuff?” asked Nate, a cute little boy who was playing with a black and white dairy cow, holding up a few pieces of hay in his chubby hand.  I said that, “Yes, cows do eat hay.”  So the plastic cow continued munching away on the hay in the feeding trough where the little, wooden baby Jesus was sleeping.

As Nate looked down at the toy bovine towering over the manger, panic suddenly shot through his whole body like a bolt of electricity.  He dropped the diary cow as if he was holding a smoking gun, and asked in a small, shaky voice, “Uh, teacher Kelsey?  Was… uh… baby Jesus eaten by a cow?”

Like a mature and competent Sunday school teacher, rather than laughing, I replied in a confident voice, “No, baby Jesus wasn’t eaten by a cow, Nate. He wasn’t eaten by anything.”

Nate shot another look of horror and fear at the plastic cow as he wailed, “I think baby Jesus was eaten by a cow!” The cow conversation had just begun, but I already knew I was fighting a losing battle.

From Crayons to Chaos 

As Nate’s cry reached the ears of all the other two-year-olds — who’d been happily playing with the Mary, Joseph and T-Rex — their lips began to quiver as they stared with fear and disgust at the black and white baby-eating cow who’d committed the unthinkable act of eating baby Jesus. The looks on their little faces was comparable to if they’d just been told their dear, old grandmother was an axe murderer.

Knowing more tears and hysteria were on the way, I tried explaining to my group of little alarmists how we know Jesus wasn’t eaten by a cow when he was a baby, because he grew up into an adult; he didn’t stay “baby Jesus.” But after that didn’t work, we had an educational discussion about the differences between carnivores and herbivores, and how, because cows don’t eat meat, they also don’t eat babies.

Vegetarian cows chewing their cud rather than gnawing on sleeping, innocent babies consoled most of them, and in a couple of minutes, you’d have never known my entire two-year-old Sunday school class had been on the brink of hysteria only a few minutes before.

While the rest of the class discussed their Christmas lists, Nate, who still wasn’t ready to let the subject go, asked earnestly, “But, Teacher, what if the cow didn’t see baby Jesus?”

Since, as we’d just discussed, babies weren’t a regular part of a cow’s diet, Nate was convinced that some absentminded cow the size of a house, might have accidentally eaten Jesus.  Because after all, Jesus was sleeping in the cows’ food dish.

A Bovine-Free Christmas Story  

It’s been several years since the “cow incident,” but I still can’t help wondering if Nate has an unexplainable fear of cows. At the very least, I highly doubt he’ll ever be a diary farmer.

What a horrible Christmas story it would’ve been if Jesus hadn’t survived “barn life”: God loved the world so much he actually left all the five star comforts of Heaven to live on our dysfunctional, germ infested little rock, but sadly, He forgot to take into account the giant, baby-eating, dairy cows, so God became lunch for a hungry, absentminded cow. Thankfully, though, Jesus didn’t end up stuck in some cow’s teeth.

Emanuel, God with us, came to be the light into the world, to bring redemption and hope.  And no, he wasn’t eaten by a cow; not even accidentally. Drop me a note if you’d like reprint permission.