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Reframe Negative Thoughts: The Christmas Tree Story

Dayna Steele
lone christmas tree with lights surrounded by storage boxes

In September of 2008, we evacuated for Hurricane Ike, just like we had done for dozens of other southeast Texas weather events over the years. This time was different. This time we didn’t come home, pull all the outdoor furniture back outside, put away the hurricane supplies for the next one, and unhook the generator.

Nope. Ike blindsided us. Wonder Husband was piloting a corporate flight and couldn’t fly back in. My mom and dad moved to higher ground with my brother. The boys and I left to stay with friends in San Antonio. As the house slept, I watched the water in the lake rise on a neighbor’s outdoor camera, and when the water reached his patio, I knew we were in trouble.

Dropping the youngest son with my mom and brother, my 12-year-old son and I drove home to access the damage. 53 inches. There had been 53 inches of water in the downstairs bedrooms. There was nothing to do but crank up the generator, put on gloves and boots, and start hauling everything into a huge, wet, smelly, mountain in front of our house.  

We were fortunate the central part of the house was on the second floor. Still, two boys’ bedrooms full of clothes and things and LEGOs along with whatever else was in the storage closets downstairs had soaked and floated for two days in a combination of seawater, lake water, dead fish, fuel, and who knows what else.  

A week into the clean-up, it dawned on me those stored items included three generations of Christmas decorations. It was the only time I cried. I sat in the driveway, looked at that nasty pile of stuff, and sobbed like a baby. Neighbors offered to go through the remnants and find things, but it was too late, whatever was there had soaked for too long in the organic and chemical goo.

Fast forward a few months to Christmas. Life was basically back to normal, but I was still a bit emotional over the Christmas things. The stocking my mother made for me as a child was in one of those boxes. The stockings she had made for my boys were there somewhere as well—all ruined.  

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Take that and the fact there was no way I was buying another artificial tree until they went on sale the day after Christmas, we decorated best we could and waited for the after-Christmas sales to begin. I am frugal to a fault.

On Christmas Eve, there was a knock at the door. Two good friends were standing there with a tiny, skinny, old artificial Christmas tree they had found cleaning out their attic and one string of lights. There was no way they were going to let us wake up Christmas morning without a tree for the family. That was the second time I sat and cried over Christmas decorations.

That has been our Christmas tree ever since.  

We are very fortunate; we could afford to buy a spectacular pre-lit tree in every after-Christmas sale. But we don’t and we won’t. Our “Charlie Brown Tree” as we call it means more to us than words will ever express, including friendship and love. It also represents strongly that we, as humans, find a way to get through things, recover, and move on to whatever is next.

One of the keys to moving forward is to reframe the negative or the diversity in a positive light. You and I can’t change what has happened, but we can try to take it, learn from it, and use it to reframe what we do moving forward.

To change. To make things better. To be more prepared.  

To move the Christmas decorations to a higher storage area. To see things in a different light. To do things differently. To appreciate what does come from hard times.

What has happened has happened.  
How will you be more prepared for the future?  
How will you change?  
How will you accept it and move forward?

How will you make sure it doesn’t happen again?

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