A Nearly Christmas Story

Today I drive out to the farm to buy my Christmas Tree. They have several different types and I get a really bushy one which looks perfect, exactly the right shape, even if it is going to drop enough needles to hide my carpet for the next year.

“Merry Christmas!” says the man who sells me the tree. He actually sounds sincere. I am the lone buyer today. “Merry Christmas,” I reply.

On the way home I stop at Waitrose. Waitrose is an expensive supermarket where the food is always excellent. I hardly ever shop there but when I do, it really gives me a good appetite. And a large hole in my wallet.

The car park is packed and people are parking along the roadside but everyone in the shop is actually polite and considerate and it’s a totally refreshing change from shopping at the budget superstore where I usually go where I everyone is crazy and rude and jostles your trolley to get the last lump of cheap cheese or priced right pizza or bargain beers. I start to mellow out.

I’m cooking Christmas dinner for mum so I’ve stopped to buy a chicken. I think turkey is too dry and, hey, I’m cooking so my choice. I also pick up four different kinds of dessert and some decent vegetables. Then it’s off home to fight the tree into a pot, outside where I’ll shed less needles. Ha. A futile hope.

Nosey neighbour, Witchypoo, hears me hammering wedges in around the tree base and comes out to investigate. “Oh,” she says, “I thought you were taking care of that one!” pointing to the large conifer by my front door.

“It will have to come down you know. You should get someone. The roots grow out horizontally you know, under the house.” She pauses to peer over the fence and inspect my handiwork. “Are you sure that pot’s big enough?”

“Yes. It has legs that attach to it to keep it stable.” I crack the plastic ring that helps the tree support system and it veers to one side. Inwardly I groan but it’s not completely split apart and looks like it should hold.

“Well, Mr Postman left this for you,” says Witchypoo and hands me a parcel the size of a water bottle. “Merry Christmas!” and she disappears. I look at the label and see it’s ‘from Santa’. My bestest friend has sent me something! Ooo! I quickly come up with a cunning plan to get the tree wedged in using the trusty standby of brute force and ignorance, then I take it upstairs to my living room.

What’s in the parcel? I thought I’d agreed with my friend not to get anything else having already given each other gifts earlier in the month. ‘Oh’ and ‘but’ and ‘oh dear’ and I haven’t sent them anything else!

I cut open the parcel and find… a red and white Christmas Stocking with my name on it and with gifts and candies inside. And the presents are just so really exactly just right. This person clearly knows me. I am so touched I actually shed a tear. How beautiful!

I don’t have a stocking any more having given mine to my niece years ago. This is totally perfect. I hang it up on my bedroom door, pause for a moment, then go back to fighting the tree.

It takes no time at all to discover that a five foot tree is too tall to stand on my table so I put together a platform for it. The excess of cardboard cartons from the attic comes into it’s own, covered in wrapping paper. A mere ninety minutes later the tree is vertical from every angle, various furniture is up in the attic and I can rest.

I plomp down in my armchair and admire this newcomer to my home, hypnotically beautiful, defeated in its pot. I notice the random ways in which the branches have grown and sprouted buds and things like that. Restful fragant pine essence fills the room and relaxes me. Ahhhh….

You actually can’t beat a real tree, even if you do find yourself fighting it for a couple of hours. I smile. And I sit.

And as I sit there, the observation turns into contemplation, almost meditative. I think of the dear kind person who sent me the parcel and give a silent prayer of thanks for having such a wonderful and thoughtful friend.

And I think of how lucky I am that I have a very good life and many many good friends, who have done so many many nice things for me this year. The film making and dentist and mad neighbours fade into the background and I remember again what’s important. The people I love.

Bless you all and Merry Christmas!