A long, long time ago, there was a cute family who lived rent-free in an adorable but gusty old shack. There were mice and bugs and in a rain storm the windows would all fog up and this one time when they weren’t home the shower head fell off and water spewed all over the floor for several hours, but otherwise, they were all happy in the shack. The mom got to stay home with the kids, which made the brown and green shag carpet and fake wood paneling all worth it.

One year, the cute shack family lovingly put up their pathetic Christmas tree. It was a hand-me-down artificial tree that had already lost most of its plastic fake pine needles. It was so gross-looking that you could actually see the metal pole-trunk, so it basically looked like a giant piece of crap sculpture made out of plumbing supplies that had been sprayed with adhesive and rolled across some Astroturf. But that just made the cute family go extra nuts with the ornaments in order to cover up the butt-ugliness of the fake tree.

Sadly, the tree met an early demise when the toddler shoved the tree over a few days before Christmas. This was actually a good thing, because the previous year, the toddler had pulled the tree over on herself, so by pushing it over it meant that she was actually pretty smart and learned not to be underneath it anymore. Unfortunately, the decrepit nasty tree snapped in half and the family had no more tree.

The mom raced to Walmart and was horrified to discover just exactly how proud the retailers are of plastic Christmas trees. Those things were not cheap! Well, $59 was considered not cheap by this mom, considering that there were two kids in diapers, one income, and water to clean up off the bathroom floor. But it was Christmas, so she used the credit card and bought the skinniest tree they had.

Once she got it home, a Christmas miracle occurred! The tree was a good bit skinnier than the previous tree, you know, the one that was already overstuffed with homemade ornaments in an effort to cover the ugliness. Once the family redecorated the tree–the new one–it was so full of ornaments that it was gorgeous! You couldn’t see the fake pine needles or the green plastic wires on the lights! It was lovely.

Years went by and the family did much better for itself. The kids stopped peeing on themselves throughout the day, giving the mom time to start doing a little writing on the side, and the family moved into its dream house. The ugly skinny tree was replaced by a big tree that looked like a florist’s display window. But the family never forgot its roots that were laid down in the shack back when they used to celebrate payday by adding meat to the Hamburger Helper.

The family kept the skinny tree and they still put it up every year in the den. The beautiful florist’s tree stands in the front window and gets the fancy red bows and the matching gold ornaments. But the skinny tree gets all of the wonderful ornaments that the family collected over the years, like the paper chains the children made in kindergarten, the hand print Santas and cotton ball snowmen, and the souvenir ornaments from the family’s trip to Rock City. The skinny tree gets the important ornaments, because it helps the family remember what Christmas was like when they pretty much had nothing but each other.

And it’s my favorite tree.