It was three days before Christmas, and my birthday as well. My husband was in the U.S. Air Force and overseas. My father had sent a night letter saying he had bought tickets so I could fly from Riverside, Calif., to Norwalk, Ohio, to spend Christmas with my family.
I caught a commuter plane in Riverside, Calif., (the only passenger), and flew to Los Angeles where I was to pick up the tickets. Due to a mix-up with the ticket, I was the last person to board the plane - having no time to catch anything to eat. The lady next to me had a large hamper filled with food and asked me to please help her by eating some of it. She was on her way to meet her father in Chicago, where they would continue to fly on to their home in Israel.
We landed in Chicago, where I was supposed to change planes to catch a flight to Cleveland. Nothing was open in the terminal, and there was a wait due to snow on the runways. I had never flown commercially before, and being three months pregnant, the wait seemed to take hours. Finally we were up and on our way to meet my father, waiting for me in Cleveland.
Back then, they didn't have planes taxiing to a terminal, and we walked from the plane to the airport buildings. It was very cold and very late at night, but my father and I located my luggage and were soon getting warm in the car heading for home.
Every year as I was growing up, my father and I would go back in the woods and cut our Christmas tree on my birthday. It was a special day for me, as having a birthday so close to Christmas, it wasn't always remembered by others.
When we walked in the house on that cold night, I found a six-foot tree set up in the living room. The next morning, Dad said he had just one string of lights and one box of tinsel to decorate this six-foot tree. But by the end of that day, I found that tree was the most beautiful tree I have ever seen - or would ever see again. It truly was a tree of love.
n Mary Vining was born in Norwalk, Ohio, married Wendell Vining 53 years ago and lived in California City, Calif., for 40 years until moving to Minden 21Ú2 years ago.