December 17, 1967.
It was forty-seven years ago that my parents said their I do’s and joined their lives forever. With close friends and family present, and Mama’s best friend from school and my Daddy’s Daddy standing up beside them, they joined hands and hearts and stories.
I’m convinced they are up at the House sitting on the back porch, side by side. Mama will reach out her hand as they watch the beautiful sunset and Daddy will take it. And though it might be quiet between them, they love each other more than any two people I’ve ever met.
They loved children–their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews. They loved all children. They kept copies of “Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm” by the Provensens in the trunk of their car to give to children or parents they met whom they thought might enjoy reading it. Daddy sometimes carried Matchbox cars in his pockets to share with little boys and girls he came across, especially at the doctor’s offices. When he left this world, he left quite a few he’d collected yet to be shared. He loved cars and children just that much.
The last few years before Mama passed, she enjoyed picking out Christmas or winter stories for the children in her life. Last year, our first Christmas without her, I decided to carry on that tradition–the picking out of the holiday story.
I really enjoyed myself, and I was so happy when I found the right book and felt like Mama was there, giving my choice a thumbs up. (Patricia Polacco’s “Uncle Vova’s Tree”)
This year I started earlier, reading and searching for just the right book. I found several good ones. My crew have really enjoyed the daily readings in “The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits: A Christmas Story for Advent.” But what one story would wrap up all the joy and delight and emotions of this Christmas season?
This past weekend I found out that my Aub, home from college, has a newfound love of ee cummings. Sunday evening I took a few minutes to reacquaint myself with his poetry. As I was reading some of his work, I found one he wrote called “Little Tree,” which has been published more than once as a children’s story. I found a copy illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray, and it called out to me.
Could it be? Could this be the book for this year?
My copy arrived today.
I had already read the poem, and it touched my heart, but when put together with Ms. Ray’s warm and whimsical illustrations, it became a new favorite.
Just like that.
The littles and I read it together. When we finished, they both sat still for a moment. I asked if they liked it. Both nodded. Our Princess said, “It’s really almost like a Christmas poem, isn’t it? It’s so beautiful.”
Yes. Yes it is, as a matter of fact. On both accounts.
We hunted for our Christmas trees in the woods on my Granny’s farm most of the years I was growing up. Such great memories of beautiful afternoons wandering around, finding one we liked, but continuing on just to be sure. And then trying to find our way back to the one we’d chosen at the very beginning. Daddy was so patient with us. We never chose the “perfect” trees as there was an unspoken understanding that those belonged to the animals and the woods. (Well, maybe I did speak it a time or two when someone dared to suggest us getting that perfect one.) We usually looked for the ones that the deer had rubbed their antlers on. Daddy taught us how to look for those trees, and he told us there was a chance that those wouldn’t make it. So we chose one of those each year–we called them corner trees, which was perfect since we always put our tree in the corner of our living room.
Perfectly imperfect. And every year Mama would say it was the prettiest tree yet.
That made me happy. And I was quite sure it made the tree happy too. Daddy taught me the word anthropomorphism many years ago, and it suits me. I like to think that the trees have feelings and are happy or sad to be chosen or not.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons that ee cummings’ poem spoke to me. I’m sure it was, but when I read the line–“and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy”–my heart was home.
This beautiful book will find its way onto our shelf after the 12 days of Christmas, but it won’t be forgotten throughout the year. This timeless poem turned children’s book is one that can bring back memories whenever it is opened and read. It is too lovely to be tucked away for very long, dreaming of when it might be able to share its story once again.
Tonight I’m thankful for this story I found (thanks Aub!) which brought back memories that were such a big part of my Christmas each year. Those tree hunts with Daddy were a tradition I love and dearly miss. I am also thankful for the story that began 47 years ago tonight, celebrated after all had gone home over cups of warm Pepsi, because they had heard it was so good. I give thanks for the two who loved us and taught us and encouraged us. And I’m thankful for their love of books and generous spirits. They left some mighty big shoes to fill. While I cannot fill those shoes myself, I can walk along the path they left, and do my best to live up to whom they raised me to be.
Happy Anniversary to my parents, and Happy Everyday, as my Mama would say, to everyone!
May today be a day that you will always remember joyfully in the years to come.
Love to all.
I will be giving away a copy of the book “Little Tree” by ee cummings to a lucky reader. The winner will be chosen randomly at 12:01 a.m. EST on December 18th. To enter, comment below with your favorite Christmas book or like the “I Might Need a Nap” Facebook page and comment on this post on that page. For handwriting practice for the week I will have the littles write your names down, put them in a hat, and we’ll let Miss Sophie draw out the name. I will send the book out to the winner on Thursday, and it should arrive before Christmas, barring anything unforeseen happening. Good luck! Only one entry per person please.
More of the story of the two who became one can be read here.