November 29, 2011 By Chad Vander Veen
I love Christmas, but like most people, there was one that was truly the low point in my history of holiday celebrations. I was 21 and living with three roommates in The Groves, a college apartment complex in Southern California. My parents had divorced a few years prior and my fractured family was still sorting out whether Mom or Dad got the kids for Christmas morning, whether Grandma still got to do Christmas Eve, and all the other holiday logistics.
It was the year 2000 and as it would turn out, no actual family gatherings occurred on Christmas Day. New commitments on both my parents’ sides — as well as for both of my brothers — led to Christmas celebrations on the 24th and 26th. So on Dec. 25, 2000, I awoke alone in my lousy apartment and was greeted by the familiar stink that lurks in homes occupied primarily by college-aged, cleanliness-resistant young men. A single strand of Christmas lights hung over the door. And a miserable, grocery-store-bought miniature Christmas tree (complete with ornament!) sat sadly on what one might call our coffee table.
The general squalor of our living room was largely concealed save for the damp light that seeped in through the window of Grove 17, as my apartment was known. I made my way to the kitchen through the cold, empty room and miraculously found a clean pan in which I made a few eggs for breakfast.
I sat down on the couch, ate my eggs and stared at our sorry tree. With literally nothing to do that Christmas Day, I decided I would plant the tree on the ramshackle patch of grass that served as our front lawn. The task took only a few minutes, and I assumed that the tree would be dead within days. I spent the remainder of that Christmas watching TV and counting the minutes until I could go back to sleep.
Why am I telling you this admittedly bleak holiday tale? Well, as pathetic as that Christmas was, it was also one of my most memorable. And that, perhaps, is the silver lining for this year.
Given the economic challenges many of us faced, it may seem impossible that we’ll ever look back too fondly at 2011. But who knows? Maybe in a few years, thinking of 2011 will elicit a wry smile or even a few laughs.
And in case you were wondering, that wretched little tree is about 20 feet tall now.
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