The Truth, Mainly - 12/20/1993

The tree that fell from the Sky
by Leon Satterfield

"It's time, isn't it," I ask my wife, "that I tell the grandbabies some uplifting story of Christmas past so they'll know just what kind of adversity their grandpa has had to endure? They're old enough to know, aren't they?"

She rolls her eyes.

"Only if I get to set the record straight," she says.

"Hah?" I say.

* * *

One snowless week before Christmas when your mama and papa and uncle were children, your grandfather was very sad because there was no snow and because he didn't want to pay $30 for a Christmas tree. He knew Christmas trees were supposed to cost $3.75 and he thought if he waited a while, the price would drop. But it didn't. It went up to $35.

He was the tightest wad in town, but he had just spent $250 on a '58 Buick to add to the five other clunkers littering our driveway. His explanation was "A man needs his transportation."—Grandma

Your grandfather was a poor but honest English teacher, but sometimes he wished he had gone into junk bonds. That's where the money is. If your mama and papa and uncle really cared about providing for your grandfather's old age, they'd have gone into junk bonds.

He hasn't the slightest idea of what junk bonds are. He brings them up only when he wants to talk about how poor English teachers are and how much integrity they have because of it.—GM

As he was walking past a dorm on his way home from work, your grandfather said "I'd give all my rhetorical devices, all my archetypal patterns, all my vast store of extemporaneous classroom witticisms for just one little Douglas fir." And that's when he heard a whooshing sound and there appeared before him a Christmas tree all sparkly in the sunlight!

It was all sparkly because it had second-hand tinsel on it. A student getting ready to go home had just tossed it out a third-floor window into the trash bin. Your grandfather has a bad habit of pawing through trash.—GM

Imagine your grandfather's surprise. He was used to working hard for everything he got. That's why he didn't go into junk bonds. But there it was—a miracle Christmas tree that fell from the sky! Pleased that his English teacher's integrity had finally been rewarded by Divine Intervention, he dragged the Christmas tree home. Even though there was no snow, it left a little trail like the one a shooting star leaves when it flashes across the sky.

The little trail was of dried Christmas tree needles. If the student had kept the tree any longer, it would have spontaneously combusted.—GM

How happy, your grandfather thought, a miracle Christmas tree will make my wife and children and dog. How they'll shout and bark for joy!

It had 13 needles and three pieces of second-hand tinsel left on it when he got it home. It looked like a tumbleweed. I rolled my eyes and the children began to cry. The dog, who would later be canonized as St. Sherman but who back then still had a long way to go, peed on it.—GM

But your grandfather's little family was strangely unenthusiastic and that made your grandfather even sadder than he'd been before. "Here I am," he thought, "getting a hernia to keep my family in Christmas trees and in the classy transportation you get only with a '58 Buick Four-Holer, and what thanks do I get?" So he lay down for a little nap.

Martyrdom always wears him out.—GM

He dreamed of $3.75 Christmas trees tied to the tops of $250 '58 Buick Four-Holers. It was a fitful dream because his wife and children kept scotch-taping junk bonds to the windshields.

But when he awoke, your grandfather's eyes got very big, for the little Christmas tree with 13 needles, three pieces of second-hand tinsel, and a wet spot on the trunk, had been miraculously transformed. Now it was clean and green, shaped like a fat upside-down ice cream cone without the ice cream.

"Come see what's happened to the tree!" he shouted to his wife and children and dog. "It's another miracle!"

"It sure is," the children said, "but don't go pawing through the trash."

That, he thought, is where the little tykes were hiding his Christmas gifts—junk bonds probably—so he went outside to paw through the trash.

What'd I tell you?—GM

Other than a grapefruit rind full of coffee grounds, he found nothing except a $40 price tag and a tumbleweed with a wet spot. Then it began to snow, and the snow made his heart leap up as he hurried into the house. It smelled like Christmas cookies and sounded like Christmas carols. And as they were decorating the Christmas tree that fell from the sky, his wife and children and dog were laughing so hard that cocoa came out their noses. They certainly seemed to be having fun. And even though he found no junk bonds in the trash, maybe it would be a Merry Christmas after all!

Don't explain it to him. He'd only be upset He's the tightest wad in town.—GM


Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.

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