Thursday, December 19, 2013


Holiday Greetings 2013
From the Church of the Open Road

An old gentleman struggled to shuffle up an icy winter hillside.  He was not well outfitted for either the weather or the terrain this day.  A brisk mountain breeze shot through his light trousers, pasting them to aging, spindly legs. Mud caked his soft-soled shoes and the cane he relied upon carried a nasty dollop on the tip as well.  He stopped for a moment’s arthritic fumble with a fleece’s zipper then the zipper of his too-light topcoat shell.

The younger people had hiked ahead, scouting through the grove of scotch pine, silvertip and spruce for the perfect holiday tree.  Occasionally, they tossed a glance over their shoulders just to see that the old man was still progressing.  But when the quest for the tree became more intense, the little check-in glances became less frequent, and, once over a rise that split the acreage, those glances were rendered useless.

In due time, a small but handsome specimen was selected, felled, and dragged back up the path.  However, upon cresting the hill, the old gent was nowhere to be seen.  The couple rolled their prize to the side of the trail into the grove – didn’t want some Johnny-come-lately to claim this little beauty – and searched up one lane of trees and down the next.  Forgetting the severe impairment of the aged man’s hearing, they called “Papa!  Papa!”  To what avail?  Their words were likely lost on that chilled mountain breeze anyway.

The holiday crisis was averted when, near the Christmas tree farm sales office, the old man, jacket and fleece now open, was spotted alternately warming his back, then his front from the glow of a huge pine bough fueled bonfire.  Facing away from the blaze, he gazed at the glazed winter peaks some thirty miles east, marveling, perhaps, at this late opportunity to have them so near.  When turned about, activity around the dancing flames enchanted him.  He laughed with the offspring of our fellow tree fallers – kids whose names he would never recall – as they darted in and about; even holding one’s Styrofoam cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows as the tad frolicked in and amongst the boisterous little mob.

After loading up the tree, we encouraged “Papa” to shuffle toward the truck, no mean feat given that, for a time, back at the campfire, he had been declared “home base.” 

Once tucked inside, the delight of the fire still glowed. 

“I’ve been eighty-five years,” he said, “and always had a Christmas tree in the house no matter whether we felt rich or poor.”

He paused. “But this is the first time I ever went into the woods and actually cut one.”

Then he added with a timeless grin and a slightly dampened eye: “I think I’ll remember this forever.”

Here’s hoping the holiday season
brings each of us something to “remember forever.”

© 2013
Church of the Open Road Press

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