Where I live, the amount of wealth surrounding me has done nothing but increase. Considering the growing number of desperate, impoverished people that I see – – – there’s a huge homeless camp right near the Apple headquarters! – – it’s quite grotesque.
Tim Cook, a billionaire, lives four blocks from my house. Marissa Mayer, a couple of blocks from Cook. Mark Zuckerberg is five blocks away, and I’ve lost track how many billions he’s got. The place is awash with personal assets that are borderline criminal, and yet this holiday season, I am thinking of a worthless tree.
Well not worthless to me. See, even though I had three siblings, they were all much older than me, so I was effectively an only child. As such, I got a lot of attention during the Christmas season, and my mother had provided me a variety of little decorations for Christmas which I put in my room as promptly after Thanksgiving as I could.
None of these decorations were anything expensive or fancy – – we really didn’t have much money – – but by far my favorite was a tree. At least I call it a tree. What it actually was, was a stick that was stuck in a pot. It was maybe two feet tall, and it was seriously just a stick my mother had probably found in the yard which had more or less than shape of a tree. This isn’t it, but it looked pretty close to this, at least in its form:
She had painted it white, and the coolest thing about it was that it was mine.
Now, I was a simple kid, but don’t get the impression that I got my jollies out of displaying a painted stick in my room. No, what made this little tree special was about a dozen candy cane “horses” that dangled from it. The horse heads were made from felt, and they looked almost exactly like the image at the top of this post. I guess my mom wasn’t the only one to think of this idea, because it didn’t take me long the find that image to illustrate what on earth I am talking about.
My mom provided me with a box of fresh candy canes early in December and, one by one, I would load each candy cane into each felt horse head. Then I would carefully hang them from the tree. I don’t even think I had lights on the thing. It was seriously just a bunch of candy cane horses dangling from a white stick in the shape of a tree. Grand total cost for this entire display: maybe three bucks.
Yet here I am, decades later, thinking fondly about it. How times have changed. I didn’t realize it at the time, but society – – American society, certainly – – was so much more equanimous and egalitarian in those days. Our needs were met. Opportunities were available. And a lifelong memory could be created just by painting a stick and making a few felt horse heads to go with it.
I’m far too young to be feeling this old.