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Possumhaw: A Christmas tree and two small gifts


Shannon Bardwell



"What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?" 


-- from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," by Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel 




Ah, the sights and sounds of Christmas. Through darkened windows trees alight houses outlined with twinkling lights and some with a yard full of gigantic inflatables.  


On Old West Point Road near Plymouth Bluff, Jane Crawford was arranging her moving Nativity. She knelt on the ground building a campfire-like setting in front of the stable that awaits Mary and Joseph. Near the house and through the woods, the couple moves day-by-day as they journey toward Bethlehem. Animals will appear, then shepherd boys, then wise men. We pass the house daily watching the progression. The story never gets old. 


Sam wanted to wait until the temperatures dropped before decorating our house and putting up a tree. It was still too warm and fall-like to commence the Christmas season, he said. 


Then, as if on cue, temperatures plummeted. Freezing temperatures and possible snowflakes predicted. There was much to do. Heat lamps in the greenhouse, lamp over the rabbit hutches, lightbulb in the well house, water spigots insulated, and the fetching of the Christmas tree. 


This year I thought we'd get the tree from our own homeplace. Before, we've toured a friend's field hunting for the two-story tree, lugging it home, decorating, and tying it securely to the rafters. As the girls moved into their own homes with their own Christmas trees, our tree grew smaller and smaller.  


For a couple of years, we chose a tree from the scratched and dent sale at a local box store. But this year I had been eyeing a cedar tree across the lake and behind the dam. I could see it from the deer stand.  


The cedar grew along the barbed wire fence line. It looked perfect in size with a good shape all around. Decorating cedar trees can be a little sticky on your hands, but the fragrance is nice, the price is right, freshness is guaranteed, and the journey to secure it is easy. 


We loaded in the Gator with the chainsaw and crossed the field to the other side of the dam. I stood beside the tree and raised my arm. The tree at the tippy top was just beyond my reach. It was perfect.  


Sam cranked up the chainsaw and swiftly felled the tree. Back at house he trimmed the trunk and carried it into the house, sitting it by the window for all to see. 


Next came the box of Christmas decorations. Opening the box is like greeting an old friend; out come the plastic candy canes, the red, green and gold Christmas balls, the old-fashioned, large-size colored lights in blue, red, green and yellow, red beads resembling cranberry strings, some half a dozen silk poinsettias, a little sparkling tinsel, a gold star topper and a Nativity for the table. 


Under the tree were our two small gifts. Sam glanced at the tree and gifts and asked, "Is there something else you want?" 


"No," I answered. "Who could ask for anything else?"


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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