Bootsteps

by underswansea

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Here is another old Christmas story. It will be the last of the Christmas stories for this year. I wrote it seventeen years ago as a gift for my father. It is about cutting the perfect Christmas tree. This year Lisa and I went out to the same spot mentioned in the story. Our kids have grown and no longer tag along with us.

Later, we went to  get Cedar boughs beside the creek. Lisa waited for me above the creek. There wasn’t much ice and snow and I was able to cross the creek on a fallen log. I spent some time in the creek bottom. When I came back up, Lisa said she thought she’d lost me. I told her I was looking for the good Cedar boughs. Lisa smiled, knowing I wasn’t being completely truthful.

I hope you enjoy the story and Merry Christmas!

Bootsteps

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Christmas stories were gathered along with as many photographs of valley children as the page count would allow. All was not work for my parents, however, as they still found time for all of the traditional Christmas festivities.

Dad always prided himself in finding the perfect tree. Visitors would come over during the holidays and say, “What a beautiful tree! Where did you get it?”

Dad would answer, “Oh, just out there on the side hill.”

I was very excited the first time I went with my Dad and brother up Windermere Creek to cut a tree. The day was very cold yet I was warm with pride to be tramping through the two feet of snow looking for the perfect tree to take home to Mom.

I remember, after awhile it seemed we had walked all over Swansea looking for that perfect tree. It had snowed the night before so the potential Christmas tree would have to be given a shake before it could be properly evaluated. Dad would say to my older brother Ronny, “Give that one a shake.”

My brother would not say a word, pull down his toque to cover his ears and his collar up and tuck his chin before giving the tree a shake. Dad looking, “Nope, flat on the backside.”

My brother looked like the Abominable Snowman flapping at his woollen shoulders.

This went on for a few more trees until we came upon the tree I knew was the one. It looked as though it should have an angel on top and presents underneath. Dad must have thought the same, “Give it a shake.”

I ran over just as my brother shook. There was snow down my neck and chest and burning my wrists between my mitts and coat sleeves. “Perfect,” Dad said as he walked around it.

After the tree was cut down we began walking back to the jeep. I was still trying to get the snow out of my collar and pull my mittens up to my jacket sleeves. A sense of pride was warming my feet as I stepped through the snow in my brother and father’s bootsteps. I looked up, with all my fiddling and self-congratulation, I had fallen behind. I ran to catch up. My brother was walking beside Dad who was dragging the tree.

The tree extended eight feet behind them, the same height as our living room ceiling. I only wanting to walk between them, but in my haste, while trying to get there I stepped on the tip of the tree. I wasn’t very heavy when I was four, but with the cold, and the tree being frozen and brittle, it broke about two feet down from the top.

The winter silence deepened. My brother looked nervous. The detached tip of the tree was still under my boot. We both looked at our Dad’s face at the same time. The perfect tree was no more. I could tell he wasn’t happy. A light snow had begun to fall, the sun was down and it would be dark soon.

It seemed like a lifetime, but finally Dad laughed and said, “Let’s get going boys, we still have to get some cedar boughs.”

That Christmas, the tree without a top was put up. Mom tried to nestle the angel in the branches to give the illusion of the tree having a top, but it was no use, the angel teetered like a bird between two branches.

Visitors said, “What a beautiful tree. . . oh, what happened to the top?”

Dad would laugh, “We grew that one special, I plan on lowering the ceiling by Christmas.”

This year Lisa and I took the kids out to get some cedar and a tree. Hunter, at two years old, fell over every red willow sticking through the snow but refused to be carried. It is the same spot my father had taken us thirty years earlier and the same spot his father had taken him.

Each year when I’m down in the creek bottom cutting cedar, with only the sound of the water flowing through ice, and the sun falling over the mountains, something always makes me stop, and as I turn my face skyward to the light snow, I swear I can hear the voices of Ron and Dapper easing along the trail, a young boy following behind in their bootsteps.

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