It was getting close to Christmas and I still hadn't found a tree that was just the right height and shape. I really wanted a real tree with that evergreen scent that would bring back all those childhood memories of Christmases past on Bell Island. This first Christmas in Florida, away from the grandchildren, as well as all that greenery and sunshine, was making me homesick for the cold north.
One week to go and still no tree. I headed to the Salvation Army Thrift Store to try my luck. The kind store clerk said they had sold all their Christmas trees, but just as I was about to leave the store a gentleman came in carrying a big box, stating that it was a six-foot tree with all the decorations belonging to his mother whom he had just placed in a local nursing home. I told the clerk I would take it and take my chances as to what surprises the box might hold.
That evening my husband and I put on some beautiful Christmas music, poured some wine and proceeded to open the box. The tree was easily assembled and placed in the corner of the room. We removed the old ornaments and placed them on the tree; the multicoloured lights, the red and gold balls, handmade lace angels, and a very battered drummer boy that looked like it had seen many a Christmas. As we were about to close the box we found under more paper a very old gold paper-mache angel with one wing hanging and looking very scary. Up she went to the top of the tree, and we sat back with another glass of wine and enjoyed the beauty of the Christmas tree whose history we did not know.
To keep myself from getting too lonely over the winter I had volunteered my services to a nursing home in the area. The day before Christmas Eve, I went to see one of the ladies that I had come to know and took her to the activity room to see the tree and to spend a little time with her. Her son came to visit and we talked and shared our own stories. His mother said: "I have ornaments that my mother made that I could never part with. She liked to crochet lace angels and although they had yellowed over time they are still precious to me as well as an old drummer boy and an angel with a broken wing."
I had a quiet talk with her son and told him I may have bought his mother's Christmas tree from the Thrift Shop, and asked him if he would like to bring his mother to my house on Christmas Day to see her old familiar tree all lit up again. He was very surprised, and the next day he and his mother were sitting in my living room enjoying her tree in all its lighted glory.
"You know son," started the lady, "that tree looks a lot like mine, even the drummer boy and the angel with a broken wing." Her son hadn't told her that he had cleaned out her house and had given her tree to the Salvation Army. Finally, he said, "Mom, this is your tree." And she replied, "I know, son." Then she thanked us both for giving her the opportunity to see it all lit up one last time in its new home.