Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Tree (10/09/08)
TITLE: A Most Excellent Tree Secret
By Linda Germain
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My sensible male sibling seemed at a loss but I had faith in his ability. After all, he was the president of a bank, for goodness sake. He dealt with green stuff all the time.
“I don’t know, but Aunt Sophie wants one… and she’s dying.”
This woman I lived with had done so much for my brother and sister and me. If she yearned for a fresh smelling Christmas tree, that’s what she would get. Edward could take care of it--I had cookies to make. We were having a party.
Half-way through my eggnog recipe the phone rang. Bethany was as puzzled as our mutual brother.
“You expect the whole family to come over during the hottest day of the year and act like it’s Christmas?”
“Uh huh,” I muttered while juggling the sugar and stirring the egg and milk mixture. There was no apology in my voice. I knew she eventually would run out of steam.
“…and bring presents and play carols and dress like it’s cold outside?”
“Yes, Sis! All that and jingle bells too. We’re doing it; end of discussion. You’d better rustle up some joy to the world because, HARK… tomorrow night’s herald angels will be singing in this house.”
Aunt Sophie’s doctor told me she had very little time left, so I decided we would have our traditional December 24th get-together in August. She was propped on pillows, in her special bed set up in the living room, listening to Bing croon about white precipitation. She beckoned to Edward and whispered something.
The next thing I knew he was clomping through the kitchen, carrying a shovel, and whistling.
I was still steeped in chopping, slicing, sautéing, baking, and frosting when I heard blundering at the front door. Auntie chuckled with delight when Edward hollered, “HO-HO-HO,” in his deepest voice.
I slipped into the front room and was shocked at the magnificent piece of greenery whose aromatic lushness was a thrill to the senses.
“Whoa! Where did you find that?”
Edward winked at Aunt Sophie.
“You might say it’s being recycled. She told me to dig up this specific one from the line of Christmas trees planted across the back of the property over the years.
Aunt Sophie clapped her hands like a delighted child. “Ooh. It’s perfect. “
She refused to have any decorations; she just wanted to inhale its lovely fragrance. Edward joined me in the kitchen with a short but strange explanation.
“She wants me to replant it after the party. At least the tap root seems intact, so it might have a fighting chance to see another Christmas.”
The next evening I turned the air conditioner to B for Brrr, lit the gas logs, and helped our sweet aunt on with her cozy red robe. Her fluffy white hair and beatific smile enhanced her angelic appearance.
After the sumptuous feast we all retired to the living room. Our beloved Sophie looked regal as she held court from her bed.
“Thank you all for making this my best Christmas ever. I’m so happy to have THIS tree and for this wonderful family celebration. I love each of you--now, Goodbye.”
We were a little stunned at her abrupt dismissal, but each one stopped to give her a hug on the way out.
When the kitchen was shipshape again, I went in to say goodnight. It was too late.
“Oh, Sophie…you must have known it would be tonight.”
After the funeral her lawyer requested we go to the back yard of the house. The old/new tree was standing by in a large tub of water, waiting, Sophie-like, to return to its roots.
As instructed, Edward knelt down by the hole where the tree would go and reached way down inside. He dragged a large metal box to the surface. There was a collective gasp from the bewildered heirs.
After the replanting we went in the kitchen for cold eggnog and to open the mysterious present. Dazed silence was followed by screaming, crying, and dancing. Our banker read Aunt Sophie’s note out loud.
“Dear loved ones. Five million dollars may not grow on trees, but who says it can’t grow under them? Surprise… and Merry Christmas.”
Sometimes it's better to give than receive; other times, it's better just to say thank you and be blessed by what's underneath your tree. This was one of those times.
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