The Tale of Two Trees

By Diane DeVaughn Stokes

Christmas was always magical when I was a kid. There were six of us living in a two-bedroom apartment – my maternal grandparents, my aunt and her daughter, Elaine, and me and mom. We were cramped, but at the time I did not know any better. This was family, and I thought everyone lived like this.

My awesome grandmother loved Christmas as much as she loved the Pope. Decorations adorned everything from the radiator to the light fixtures and the little cardboard houses and mini bottle-brush trees lined the top of the toilet tank. But there were no Christmas decorations to be seen until after Thanksgiving as the cornucopia had to be on the table along with the Hallmark paper fold-out turkey and male and female wax pilgrims that had center stage on the dining room table the entire month of November.

No, Nana never missed a holiday. She was obsessed with making sure the holiday décor was always accurate. And she was always spot on, except for the year she decided to get an artificial silver tree. You remember the one with the revolving colored panel that made the tree appear to be changing colors! We were all shocked because we had always had a beautiful large live Fraser fir with glitzy balls and silver icicles that fell from the branches like rain. Nana wouldn’t let us toss the stuff; we had to place each one perfectly on the edge of the limbs. Then there were those bubbly liquid electrical candles and colored bulbs that brought the tree to life, with the Angel Gabriel perched on top. Okay, she was female, but we still called HER Angel Gabriel.

However, this silver tree was in vogue – the latest Christmas attraction on the market and Nana could not resist. She decorated it with pink and blue-mirrored balls. But my grandfather, who never said much of anything to irritate Nana, gave her heck about it.

“It has no smell,” he said. “It’s fake!” “Santa will hate it, and so will Jesus!” And a line he used that made my aunt and mother snicker, but I did not understand at the time, “Blue Balls is a city in Pennsylvania, and no one wants them!”

Well, within a week, my grandfather brought home a real tree and insisted Nana decorate it with all the traditional ornaments we used in the past. He moved the silver tree to the front window so you could see the lights from the outside, and put this new tree in the same location our former trees had been. He said with a laugh, “Ruth, I have spoken. I don’t want Santa to come down that chimney and go back up without leaving any toys because he thinks a crazy person lives here!”

Until that time, we had no idea Papa was so sentimental and nostalgic. But it was so special that year having two trees. We were the hit of the neighborhood. And I must admit, Papa was right as Santa did not leave any presents under the silver tree, but only under the real one.

When Nana and Papa died, I had stuffed bears made from their pajamas and bathrobes for each of their grandchildren. Each Christmas I display six of Nana’s pink and blue balls, which are now sixty years old, in a crystal bowl on my fireplace hearth, with my Nana and Papa bears on each side reminding me of the year my wonderful grandfather, who was “Daddy” to me in my early years, stood his ground and created a legendary event that will pass through the generations of our family forever, I hope. We call this heartwarming story, “The Tale of Two Trees.”

About this writer

  • Diane DeVaughn Stokes

    Diane DeVaughn Stokes

    Diane DeVaughn Stokes is the President of Stages Video Productions, Host and Producer for TV show “Inside Out” on HTC, and EASY Radio Host weekdays noon to 3pm. Her passions include food, travel and theater. You can reach her at

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One Response to “The Tale of Two Trees”

  1. Anna Riley says:

    What a nice Christmas memory about having 2 beautiful trees! Love that one was silver with the pastel balls! :))

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