The Christmas Tree
My mother always loved Christmas. Maybe it was the inner spark of light more clearly seen in the dark, cold Winnipeg winters. Maybe it was the singing and happy smiles. Maybe it was the gifts and coloured lights, the shortbread and butter tarts, the food and festive celebrations, the birth of the Christ child. Whatever it is, this joyous time rests for her in the symbology of the Christmas tree.
Living in the city, our tradition was to buy a tree at the local grocery store but my mom always longed for a Scotch Pine tree of her youth growing up on a farm in Southern Manitoba. She used to talk about it every Christmas, how the smell of fresh pine would fill the entire house and how the long needles of the Scotch Pine were the most beautiful of all the trees. She would sigh and smile and gaze upward to her beautiful memory.
Early December when I was about 5 years old, my dad stopped at the 7-11 about 3 blocks from our house. As he dashed into the store, my mom admired the fantastic Scotch Pine trees leaning against the brick wall for sale. I asked if we were going to buy one. My mom laughed sadly saying that they were too expensive for us to buy.
When we returned home, I took my younger sister into our room with great excitement. I told her I had a great idea for a Christmas present. We lugged out our piggy banks and put all the money into one as we laid out our secret strategy to procure the sacred Scotch Pine. We knew that very soon our parents would be bringing home a tree so we had to act fast. We would have to sneak out the very next day.
Bundled up in skidoo suits, long scarves and warm mittens, we went out to play having secreted the piggy bank under my sisters’ clothes. My mother didn’t like us walking all the way to the store by ourselves, but after much pleading and a promise to come right back home she finally consented. Stealth fully we pulled our long wooden toboggan out of the yard and began our journey walking up the snow street toward busy Portage Avenue where we hung a left, walking behind two large apartment buildings towards the 7-11.
My mom was right. These were the smelliest, most beautiful pine trees ever. We entered the 7-11 and waited at the counter while a customer finished and left. We reached up and put the piggy bank on the counter. The clerk leaned over and looked down at us. “Can I help you?” she asked with a smile.
“We’d like to buy a Christmas tree. Is this enough money?” we trepidaciously inquired. We knew how expensive the trees were and were wondering terribly if we had enough in our combined life savings.
“Where are your parents? Are you here by yourselves?” she asked in a serious tone.
“Oh, yes,” we explained. “This is our mother’s very favorite tree but it’s too expensive for them. So, we want to buy it as a surprise Christmas present for them.” A second male clerk leaned over our clerk’s shoulder looking down at these 2 small bundles of winter clothing with their piggy bank dumped out on the counter. They smiled at each other then said we had just the right amount. Our faces must have lit up like the top star on the tree. They took us outside and helped us load the tree onto the toboggan.
The walk home was much more difficult and the tree dragging behind the toboggan was much heavier than pulling my younger sister. Somehow, exhausted, we finally made it to the house. We knew the tree would go into the front room and did not want to drag it around to the back door where we were required to always enter the house. We decided this one occasion was an exception. Pushing and pulling we managed to get the tree into the front porch and leaned up against the corner window panes. Then, our hearts pounding and smiles bursting, we knocked on the front door and waited.
The door opened and our mother emerged looking around and finally down at us. Her pretty smile turned into a frown and she demanded to know what we were doing at the front door. Our faces dropped and we said, “Don’t you like it?”
I really don’t think she saw it at first, even though the fragrant round tree took up at least a quarter of the porch. And when she did see it, I don’t think she believed it right away. We watched with glee as her expression transformed from irritation, to bewilderment, to awe, and finally to tearful joy. She began babbling between how we managed to get this home, how magnificent it was, where did we get the money and where did we get the tree. She bent down and pulled us both into her chest, dripping tears onto our toques, laughing and saying how much she loved it.
My mother still loves Christmas, and especially the Christmas tree. That Christmas she told everyone about our special gift; and nearly fifty years later, she still loves to tell the story of the beautiful sacred Scotch Pine Christmas tree.
Submitted by ©2017 Jacquelyn-Rose: Jones, President of the Canadian Society of Questers