It began with a tall spindly pine tree growing in the corner of our yard smack at the meeting point of four fences, and which, depending on how the wind blew, threatened to drop on any one of the three adjoining yards.
Friendly suggestions directed at my dad had developed, over time, into an unceremonious lobbing of pine cones over the fence.
So when the comments and the pine cones had reached a fever pitch one fall, my dad saw two birds, one stone, and an opportunity to save money.
We five kids watched with interest as our dad took down the tree in an engineer’s nightmare of ropes and guidewires ensuring that only our backyard leaf compost would be flattened.
We watched my father’s hearty industry as the lower half of the tree became a neat stack of firewood.
Then we watched in curiosity as the top six feet of the tree, with its four branches spaced irregularly along its tortured length, was displayed proudly in a snowbank.
There it sat. And while it was peculiar, it was a busy time, and in any case, Dad seldom liked to talk about his plans or projects, and we had learned not to ask.
A week before Christmas, the tree was gone from the snowbank. When Dad didn’t show up for dinner, “he’s working on something in that workshop of his,” my mother said. And then the door opened, bringing with it the smell of snow mixed with the heady scent of wood shavings, there stood Dad with our Christmas tree.
To call it ungainly would be kind; it was more like a failed experiment in vivisection. It had its four original branches, but, painstakingly drilled in and fastened in a complicated network of wires, were another sixteen borrowed from other parts of the same tree.
One or two appeared to have come from other trees, as if he had run short. In an attempt at symmetry, some branches had been hacked off in effort to echo the bell-shaped look of commercial trees, so that every so often a horizontal stump would appear, aimed with eye-poking precision at the five of us, standing with our mouths open.
And then, in the true spirit of the season, we chimed: “Nice tree, Dad.”
Four days later most of the needles had fallen from the grafted branches, and then, as if in embarrassment, the original ones began shedding as well.
The two adopted branches, from some hardier species, retained their greenness for several more days.
Mom would glance at the tree in the midst of all the bustle, pass someone a box of tinsel, and point. Thus, we masked most of the holes as they appeared in our most memorable of Christmas trees.
The Nelson Library has all sorts of ways to get thinking about your own stories as you enjoy the stories of others.
There’s one-stop-shopping at our seasonal display, where you can check out novels and nonfiction, CDs, DVDs and audiobooks that recognize the myriad ways we celebrate.
Enjoy merry music by Bruce Cockburn, Susan Aglukark, and more. Offer kids a little insight with Inventing Christmas: How Our Holiday Came to Be by Jock Elliott (J394.2663 ELL).
If things get “ruff,” download the eBook The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by Steven Paul Leiva, or watch the classic movie A Charlie Brown Christmas with its own famous tree (we have the CD, too).
Perhaps this is the year to read (or re-read) a classic, such as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
If you need to be hands-free while you make shortbread, try listening to Debbie Macomber’s romance novel Starry Night on audiobook. Need a shortbread recipe? We have those, too.
’Tis the season for stories old and new. From all of us at the Nelson Public Library, we wish you a memorable holiday.
Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more information go to nelsonlibrary.ca.