December 19th, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #699 'The wreath'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: The White House, I am sure, gets lots of Christmas cards. And a letter every day from me.

Dear Mr. President,

I mentioned to you a few days back that we have a wreath that we hang each year from the highest point of our house, and it is a bear. Let me elaborate.

Our home sits on a decidedly tilted piece of land. I don’t know the exact grade, but let me put it this way: If the house weren’t there and it snowed, you could hit sixty miles an hour on a sled before you even made it to the street. As a result, our already tall house seems ridiculously taller than it already is, and reaching that uppermost window is like scaling Kilimanjaro. (Not quite, but still…)

The window from which we suspend the wreath is tiny and can be reached only by crawling through a small, rectangular attic passage that would have given Andy Dufresne the willies. (See: Shawshank Redemption)

Now I will admit that the view from up there is wonderful. But I seldom enjoy it much.

The wreath is too big to be put through the window from the inside, so I have to lean out of that wee opening, stare down from the dizzying height, and brace myself to haul it up after my wife has secured it to a line. This is no easy task. It is absurdly heavy. It has a joint in the middle for folding, which makes it sort of flap in the air as I hoist. It must be “jumped” over the rain gutter, and even when I have it in hand, securing it to the hooks I have mounted in the wall is a back breaking puzzle full of many potential pitfalls.

Each year my wife gasps as if she is watching the Great Wallendas at work. I repeatedly miss the hooks and the wreath sways wildling in my hands. At any moment it seems as if the wreath, or I, or both of us will comes streaking to the ground to land in a calamitous heap.

“If you don’t want to do this anymore, that’s fine with me. I know how hard it is,” she said this year. “No. No. It’s fine,” I responded.

The reason I keep it up is actually quite simple. We like it, sure, but some years ago an old woman in the neighborhood stopped one frozen December evening as we were taking the dog out to walk, and she said something like, “I love your wreath. Every year, I see it lighted and shining up there so high in the night sky, and it just seems so beautiful. Makes me feel as if Christmas has really arrived.”

I don’t know if she still lives there, or is still living at all. I never knew her name. But each year when I am sweating and cursing in the attic, I think of her. And the notion that the effort is a kind of gift to a stranger makes it all worthwhile.

Hope all is well. Call if you get a moment.

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Vesta

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful letter tom. Who knows where the old woman may be, hopefully still there but there may be others in the same neighborhood who share her sentiments, although they have not told you, about your family tradition and the "wreath". We can expect that the old lady has probably told some of her friends, who may also have come to rely on you, without your knowledge, to make them "feel Christmas had arrived. Consider that possibility too,tom! Forget the challenges for a minuite, you love the beautiful view, when ever you get the chance to see it but are absolutely delighted at how it makes a total stranger feel. Wreaths tend to do that!
    My hunch is that you will crawl and scale that Kilimanjaro, all over again, come next Christmas! But hey, as your wife said,it's totally up to you.(LOL)
    As we know, the President is pretty busy with START and other bills, and now the Korean Drama but if he gets a moment to call, Please extend our Christmas Wishes to him and the Obama Family. Happy Christmas to you and yours.

    December 19, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
  2. Amy Bociek

    Isn't it interesting the things we do for people to give them pleasure. Many people think you have to give an expensive gift, but the most beautiful gifts are those given with personal sacrifice of time and effort. Too bad our elected officials and lobbyists do not understand this philosophy. Thank you for sharing this bit of wisdom.

    December 19, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
  3. Merle Dunn

    Thank you for this story I think it is great.
    I read your letter every day regardless of the
    subject as I usually get something out of whatever the topic may be, so keep writing your
    letter. Our President may not read it or even
    like it, but I for one do enjoy reading your
    letters. Some may say I do it because I am a
    lonely old woman (71 Widow}, but I read them
    because I enjoy reading them.
    Have a bless Holiday.

    December 19, 2010 at 12:49 pm |