A Christmas Tradition
It was a dark wintry night…snow blowing
so fast that he couldn’t see beyond a few yards.
He was an old man now but a man with a young heart still.
The year was 1912 and it was Christmas Eve.
He had lived a full life and was grateful to God for all the events
that had formed his life. He
thought of his family and of Christmases past.
old man had seen a lot his during lifetime…and, many times, more than he
ever wanted to see. He had
fought in the Civil War and had seen men die by his musket.
He was young then and full of bravery (or foolishness he thought
now). He understood the
purpose of the war at the beginning but after the first horrendous battle
questioned his role in it. Even
so, he never faltered in his duty. But
looking back now, he thought mostly of the lost boys and it saddened him
greatly. That was what he
remembered most about the war…the young lads who never would know the
joys he has known.
forest was home to the old man and had been his life long friend.
He had hunted there all of his life and could boast of many fine
elk and deer slain by his hand. Once
he even treed a bear here while hunting with his sons…a story they
recall with glee. But tonight the place seemed alien to him. He could not
seem to make out the smallest of shapes and his steps were not as swift
and firm as they used to be. His
old hands ached from the cold, and still he pushed on.
night reminded him of the time he returned home from the War when his gait
was steady and full of purpose. It
was a cold then too and a blizzard abounded.
As he walked through the forest that night, hungry and frost
bitten, he did so with the knowledge that he would soon be home for
Christmas. He could have
delayed his homecoming a day and waited for better weather but Emma was
there and it was Christmas. They had been married for only two months
before the war and had been apart for 13 months during his active service.
The newness of her, her smell and her tender body and touch, was
still fresh in his mind and his desire for her grew stronger with every
step. He had spent months
lying awake on the battlefields wondering why God had blessed him so with
such a woman and was so very grateful that she loved him back.
he arrived at the door of their little cabin in the woods he paused and
peered through the small window. Emma
was putting a candle on the small Christmas tree and the room was filled
with a warm glow from the fireplace.
He had never seen a fir in a home before and wasn’t quite sure
what to make of it. They had no children to gather round it and it seemed
to him that was an awful lot of trouble for her to go, as he imagined her
chopping the tree down and dragging it to the house and fixing it so that
it would stand so proudly.
looked like an angel in her blue gingham dress and he was so awed by the
sight, he could not move. He
watched as she moved about and it seemed to him that she was floating on a
sunbeam. On a table nearby
was a package wrapped in a flour sack and tied with a fine red ribbon and
a wild turkey was roasting in the fireplace, which caused his stomach to
growl. How could she have
known that he would arrive that night when he did not even know?
Still he could see that she was expecting someone.
Suddenly the greatest of fears rose in his belly, that maybe she
was not expecting him at all but someone else.
He felt a panic that he had not once experienced in the War.
He grew dizzy and faint while at the same time trying to regain
control. In his deepest of
heart, he knew that he did not deserve a woman like this but what would he
do if it were not his arrival she was preparing for? He could not
entertain the thought for long and stepped back and knocked three times on
slowly opened the door and stood back for a moment to collect herself.
She could not speak as her eyes filled with tears.
a man get a kiss from his bride?” he asked.
that, she fell into his arms trembling all the while.
“I knew you would come tonight.
I just knew it. Welcome home and Merry Christmas, my dearest.”
In his life the old man had experienced many things, but that one
particular Christmas night stands out, having never been shelved in the
recesses of his mind like so many other memories.
Whenever he recalled his Emma that night and how he felt when he
realized it was, indeed, him that she was expecting still brightens his
Every Christmas since that one, the old man would make his trek in
the woods to find the perfect tree to display in their home.
Even after the children had married and had families of their own,
it was a tradition that he and Emma cherished, and, even in his old age,
still put the twinkle in his eye, for it reminded him always of that first
Christmas…of their real beginning.
He thought of all that now as he trampled through the woods and
those memories warmed him. He
soon came face to face with his tree.
It wasn’t as big and sturdy as in the years past or as bushy nor
as beautiful, but still it’s branches reached out to beckon him. He
knew, like him, that this little tree had survived many obstacles and
weathered many a storm and even though it had lost some of his branches
and needles, and did not stand as straight as before, it was still a fine
tree. This little tree has
heart, he thought.
He quickly chopped the tree down and headed for home where Emma would be waiting for him and where they would light the candles and rejoice in God. Christmas is a wonderful time of the year, he thought, when love abounds and a little tree can brighten your life so!
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