It was December 1951 in our Quonset hut, our home on the Waianae Coast. The winter waves crashed on the shoreline across the street from our home. The smell of ocean spray drifted inland, mingling with the odor of rotting dead leaves from kiawe trees that lined the beach. The gusty winds blew through our windows, reminding me that our holiday season would be dreary and quiet. As Christmas neared, mom knew we all wished there was a fir tree standing in our parlor, but there were bills to be paid, and my dad could not afford to buy one for us. The absence of colored lights, tinsel, or sparkly balls made our home seem darker than usual. Our home was devoid of any Christmas decoration except for a table decoration my mom had put together. She had rescued a brown coconut frond, removed its leaves, and in its cavity had laid a dried palm flower branch. Finally, after she hung four shiny red miniature glass balls on that little branch, we completely forgot about missing a Christmas tree!
Mom’s coconut arrangement had captured the spirit of the season, but it seemed incomplete. We talked about how a real pine tree could give off a wonderful green fragrance. Days later mom returned home with a little fir branch she had salvaged from a damaged tree at the local Christmas tree lot. After laying it along the side of the flower branch, she surprised us by carefully placing four little Christmas gifts around it – one for each of us kids. I was shocked to see the gifts around her “tree” and wondered how she managed to do it. When I opened my gift on Christmas morning, I was a bit disappointed that it was a Parker pen with an empty ink well, something a ten-year old could not appreciate, but my mom must have guessed I would become a writer. Years later when we were able to buy a live fir tree, this little holiday creation continued to reserve a space in our house and in my heart at Christmas time.