Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Oh, Motel Tree

Motel Tree
Short version:
I just decorated my house for Christmas.  I went to the spare room closet and got out our tree and plugged it in.  My tree is 18" tall and artificial.  We stopped using a big tree the year of our house fire.  We bought this little tree for our motel room, our home for 11 months, as we celebrated Christmas there, and now it always reminds us to take delight in the little things.  Between our basement flooding the winter before, and the smoke damage, we lost most of our pictures and memorabilia.  Our little tree reminds us that we should take notice of the little things, appreciate them, remember everyTHING you have is replaceable, but that everyONE is not. 
Merry Christmas to all. 
God bless you at this time of year, and each and every day.


Longer version, with a bit more background:

A few years back, we had a house fire in our present home. The good thing was, no one was hurt.  We would have been killed that night if we'd not taken a very unexpected trip over night.  Our son, who stayed overnight to care for the pets, would have been killed that night if the tv he'd fallen asleep watching hadn't woken him as it went to static.

A TV in our unfinished basement, not turned on, not used for years, but still plugged in from when my husband had had his office in the basement, had randomly burst into flames.  Although nothing but the tv caught fire, it made enough smoke to coat everything in our house with a black plastic and electronic slime. The house required cleaning that took 11 months. 

At any rate, we took up residence in a small inn, or large motel, in town.  We had two rooms, a very tiny closet - not your regular sized ones in a motel (but we didn't have any clothes, so who cares?) - and a bath.

It was just after Thanksgiving, and we'd been told it would take two weeks to clean the house, so we'd be back in by Christmas.  Well, it didn't, and we weren't.  So we bought and set up a small tree in our motel room (see picture above) to give it that Christmassy cheer.  I sprayed some tree smell around, and voila!

Our son, our daughter and our son-in-law were coming for Christmas, but it wasn't going to be like inviting them over to our house.  Fortunately, there WAS room at this inn, so we booked rooms for them.   When my daughter and her husband arrived two days before Christmas, we decided we could have our Christmas celebration right in the third floor lobby, just down the hall from our room.  We could use the decorated tree that was right there.

As my daughter and I looked at the tree, we decided it had been decorated quickly, and that the wrapped empty boxes beneath it were getting stale.  We set about freshening up the boxes by retaping and repapering some.  Then we started rearranging decorations on the tree.  Rearranging proved to be too difficult, so before we knew it, we had taken ALL the decorations off the tree and redone the whole thing. Some of the decorations seemed excessive, so instead of putting them back on the tree, we decorated around the lamps on the end tables in the area.  As a final touch, we added candy canes to the tree, as we usually have on our own tree, and repositioned the fake gifts. It looked so nice when we were done!  And we'd had our mother daughter decorating party even though we weren't in our own home!

We met with the guys and headed downstairs to find a "kitchen"....which meant we were going out to look for a restaurant for supper!  On our way past the check-in desk the women at the desk asked my daughter and me if we'd had a good time.
"Yes?" we said a bit hesitantly.
"We were watching you decorating on the monitor!"  they laughed.
Oh, yeah.  Forgot.  Cameras everywhere.

The next morning we waved to the cameras and inspected our handiwork again. We  determined that if we moved the boxes to the back of the tree, we could set our real gifts out there in the morning, and put coffee and cups and some sugar cookies out on the end table to snack on. 

And Christmas morning, that is just what we did.  My son had the room next to ours and my daughter and son-in-law had the room directly across the hall.  It was almost like home!   When we got up, we made some coffee in the motel carafe, grabbed our cookies and presents, and still in pj's we went out to the lobby and had Christmas.  A few people passed through, and we wished them a Merry Christmas!

We moved back into our home in October of the next year.  Almost time for Christmas again!  Since then, we've had a fake tree.  And we've always put up our little motel tree to remind us that Christmas doesn't need to be at home.  It can be in a strange place.  It doesn't need to be with lots of stuff.  It can be with none of your stuff.  It doesn't even need to be with family.  Though we had our family, we also had new friends at the motel that became like family to us.

We had everything we wasn't much, but it was plenty.  This little tree reminds us that we don't need a lot.

But this year, I'm wondering.  Our grandson will be here on Christmas morning.  He's 16 months old.  Maybe we need a bigger tree, not huge, just bigger.  Maybe it needs to be real, smelly real.  Maybe it will remind me that I have a lot.

I'm torn.  What do you think?


  1. Wow, what a story! I'm so glad you wrote the long version! You seem to me to be one of those roll-with-the-punches kinda people - something I much admire. You made the most of the situation and didn't let circumstances take away from what's important. I'm glad to "know" you.

    Tina @ Life is Good

    1. I'm delighted you stopped by! Have a cookie! Life IS matter what. I forgot to mention that we had overnight bags with us. So we had toothbrushes and a change of clothes!

  2. Wow, it's hard for me to imagine that much damage from just a TV fire, but, then, maybe it shouldn't be. Chemical fires are nasty.
    I think you should keep the small tree and tell him the story of why you have it. Tell that story every year. Make it mean something. The tradition will end up being more important than the tree.

    1. Such an acrid soot, black and greasy, it made me sick when I came in contact with it. Much soot had gone up into the holes for the plumbing and coated the inside of the walls in the bathrooms. As they closed the door when they left the house, the air pressure change was enough to draw soot out again. Once they figured out why the house kept getting sooty again after cleaning, and took care of it, we were good to move in again. But for a long time it was a mystery! It was a major event in our lives, that's for sure.

    2. Oh, and I like your idea of keeping the story of the tree and the tree itself a tradition. We'll see how my daughter feels!

  3. Chemical fires are nasty. I'm glad no one was hurt.

    1. They sure are. Who knew it could be as bad as or worse than burnt wood?

  4. One of my colleagues had a turkey do that to their home a few years ago. The house was coated, as you described, by the turkey running out of liquid & they were elsewhere on errands. It was bad, just as you said, Donna. I'm just happy you're okay. This year, with the baby, does it matter at theri age. I have a small tree, not quite as small as yours, but little, & this year, my granddaughter is going to decorate it with me. It doen't matter to the little ones, just being together is what's important. Merry, merry Christmas!

  5. Yes, the fire, though it only incinerated a tv before the firetrucks arrived, was a huge mess. And I am so grateful that all lives were spared that night. Strange thing - no smoke alarms went off, although the batteries were good and there was certainly plenty of smoke.
    It sounds like I should just go with my little tree. It is always decorated. Even in the closet where we store it! I literally pick it up by the top, set it where I want it and plug it in. I'll have him put some sprinkles on cookies maybe. Cookie making was our family tradition when the kids were little, so maybe it's time for Nannie to start that up again!

  6. I saw you linked this story on Jaana's SOLS and it is such a heart warming response to an unfortunate event. Your beliefs in action.I like your conclusion to keep the little tree and when your Grandbaby is older to share the story. An important lesson. Let the sprinkles begin and that tradition continue as well. Merry Christmas blessings to you Donna.


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