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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Trees (12/05/05)

TITLE: A Scrawny Little Tree
By Mary MacKinnon


What would Christmas be like this year? Instead of having the celebration at home in California, we were going to break tradition. We were flying to Canada where our girls were studying at Prairie Bible Institute.

Certainly the small town where they were could compare in no way to the megapolis of Los Angeles where we lived so how would our celebration turn out?

From Edmonton where our plane landed we took a train down to Three Hills where the school was. Since we would be traveling over the noon hour we expected to buy a lunch of some kind on the train. What a surprise that nothing, not a single food item, was available. No one came through hawking hot dogs or candy or soft drinks and certainly no dining car on the train. We got off, famished and ready for supper with the girls in the school dining room.

Afterward the girls walked us to the two rooms the school was offering for our stay. It was no surprise to see that the rooms reflected the whole atmosphere of the school, as spartan as possible to economize and manage on their meager income, but we were grateful to be near our girls and didn’t mind the lack of luxury or comfort. The warm atmosphere of friendliness on the part of the staff and our girls’ friends made up for whatever we lacked in creature comfort. The warmth extended to our rooms, too. In spite of the frigid Canadian winter we were snug inside.

At noon on Christmas day, a typical meal would be forthcoming in the dining room but what could we do to make Christmas Eve special for our girls?

“Let’s stroll downtown while the girls are in school,” my husband suggested. “Maybe we’ll get some ideas there.”

The first idea came when we passed a lot where Christmas trees were being sold. More truthful to say, a lot where Christmas trees had been sold. Now there were only two or three scrawny little trees left. We dickered with the salesman for a few minutes and left with one about three feet high, the least scrawny of the lot. The advantage was that it already had a base so we wouldn’t have to scrounge up one.

Our next stop was a grocery store where we bought popcorn and some aluminum foil to trim the tree. Back in our room, we cut the foil into icicles. But how to pop the corn? Our girls came up with the ingenious idea they used in their rooms. They had a covered pan that they placed on top of the heated iron, tossed in a few spoonfuls of butter and then the popcorn. It popped all right.

Next we got needle and thread and started stringing the popcorn into festoons for the tree. Finally with the icicles and popcorn trimmings, we only lacked something for the top. Gordy took another length of aluminum foil and shaped it into a star. The tree now reflected the atmosphere of the school,. a spartan comparison to our usual beautifully ornamented Christmas tree in California. But at least we had a Christmas tree, even though we were far from home.

After supper on Christmas Eve our two girls invited about six of their friends to our room for a celebration. Without an instrument, we sang all the traditional Christmas carols, a capella, but nobody minded. Next we read the Christmas story. Then it was gift time. We had bought some candy bars and knickknacks while in town, wrapped them and now distributed them. One of the girls told a story. What the plot was I don’t remember but it involved someone with a mouth stuffed full of peanut butter and then trying to talk. Her dramatic gestures accompanied her struggle to talk, so before long we were all laughing.

I glanced around the room and studied the expressions on their faces. We were all far from home and could have been wrestling with the homesickness I knew each one felt. Instead we were looking up, recognizing the “reason for the season” and finding the truth behind Christmas. This is just like our bigger situation, I realized. We are all aliens in this world, far from our real home now. But, because of the knowledge that someday we would be going to our real home, we were at peace.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Naomi Deutekom12/12/05
Having attended another Alberta Bible school, I have been to missions conference at Prairie Bible Institue. What an experience it must have been for California girls to attend there. I really enjoyed reading about your experience. It brought back good memories.
Cassie Memmer12/14/05
I enjoyed the 'making do' and still realizing the 'bigger situation' - the real reason for celebration. Nice memories. God job!
Jan Ackerson 12/14/05
Written with tenderness and nostalgia. Good job!