Shared Stories: Our Little Douglas Fir

There are so many themes in this story by Kacie Cooper – a mother and daughter road trip, a turning point, a fresh start, and a simpler time. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns

By Kathy “Kacie” Cooper

Back in 1973, while my mother was searching for an escape route to divorcing my father after 28 years of marriage, I was searching for a way to get my boyfriend of three and a half years to commit to marriage.

She and I were directed in our paths, unknowingly, when my mother was called back to her hometown of Provo, Utah. Who says you can never go home again? Sometimes one must go back to their roots to reclaim their lives and start anew.

My mama Jeri’s father Benny had just died, so we would be taking him back to his hometown in Utah to bury him.

Three days later, Mom and I hopped on a Greyhound bus, carrying only two suitcases apiece, and set out for the 700-mile trip. We knew we were going to Provo, but we were oblivious as to where our lives would head after the funeral.

Grandpa Benny’s funeral was lovely, as funerals go. Luckily, we were invited to stay with Keith and Shirley Jacobson for a few weeks. They were childhood friends of my parents.

During that time my mother never brought up the idea of divorce. I never spoke of my wanting an ultimatum from my guy. Instinctively I guess we just knew what needed to be done.

Within weeks we both got a job together working at Signetics, an electronics company located in Orem, making a whopping $2.00/hour. Soon we found the cutest little one-bedroom apartment for the outrageous amount of $90 a month. We split the rent. The apartment was fully furnished. We didn’t have to buy even one piece of furniture.

It was Christmas Eve in Provo and the air was fresh and crisp and freezing. But we bundled up accordingly. The coldness was something I had never experienced in sunny California. I loved it. I never felt so alive.

From the sweet smile on my mother’s face, she looked like she had just returned to her roots. She was home.

Since we didn’t have a car yet, we decided to walk the six blocks down the street from our apartment to where the tree lot was located. Families were laughing and tying Christmas trees on top of their cars, happily throwing snowballs at each other. We saw all these huge 8- and 9-foot trees, some flocked, some green.

“Well, we can’t carry them home. They’re too big,” I told Mom. Then it suddenly began to snow and we decided we’d have to choose a smaller one quickly.

Then we saw it – our Christmas tree. It was standing there all alone, away from all the other larger trees as if it were being punished for its short height.

“How rude,” I thought. But it looked like it was ready for a new environment – like we had been. It looked so lonely. But it looked the loveliest to my mother.

I quickly paid the man and while the snow kept falling even faster, together we carried this cute, pudgy little 4-foot Douglas fir tree back to our little castle.

We entered the front door with the tree in our arms as if it were a baby coming into its new home. It smelled like the woods, it smelled like heaven. It was fresh and full of life. It was made by God. It was the only thing we would actually own in our little furnished apartment.

As I heated up the hot chocolate, Mother sprinkled her favorite silver tinsel onto our 4-foot Douglas fir. It was fun watching her decorate the tree. It felt as though she were throwing magic fairy dust onto our lives.

After stringing the white lights around the tree and plugging them in, we opened the drapes behind our Douglas fir. Instantly we were transformed into a magical new world.

In front of us was a huge, fenced-in yard with two of the most beautiful Palomino horses – my favorite, gold-colored horse. Beyond the horses, in the distance, our eyes caught sight of those beautiful, moonlit, snow-covered Utah mountains that actually illuminated our sweet little 4-foot Douglas fir.

It was an omen. Things began to happen quickly after Christmas. My mother sadly received the divorce papers. Days after listening and crying to sad Patsy Cline records, she finally signed them. Also, my boyfriend agreed to get married in June of the following year. Thus, our new lives would finally begin.

I have been living in my home in California for decades now. And you could say that I am living in a very fully-furnished home– too many material things. I don’t need all this stuff.

Then I think back to 1973 when the only thing Mom and I owned was a cute little God-made, 4-foot Douglas fir. It was really all I needed – a wonderful, 4-foot Douglas fir and an even more beautiful, God-made mother. Life was so simple, but amazing, back then.