C.W. Tenderheart was a boy of adventure and wonder. He lived and danced among the spirits of the trees and the voice of the wind. He woke to the song of the sun and birds and his little heart brimmed full when the Christmas season came around.
As you know, Christmas is an extra magical time and when there’s magic overflowing there’s room for impossible things to burst forth.
On the day that C.W.’s family went out to choose their Christmas tree he stayed in bed a few moments longer than usual. He squeezed his eyes shut and he prayed for his Christmas tree to be extra special, extra magical and extra full of life.
While his mother bundled him up she sang a holiday hymn. The melody danced through his head and his mother’s eyes twinkled. C.W. ‘s little brother chattered about Christmas lights and cookies while wrestling hands into his mittens and his father laced up his woodsman boots and put on his fur trapper hat. Their brave dog circled their heels with excitement.
As his family walked through the quiet forest he prayed for the perfect tree. He asked the spirits of the forest to bless his family this year because things had been sad and hard. C.W. thought of his grandfather who passed away in the summer and how he wished he could share this Christmas with him.
“Please Grandfather, help us get the perfect tree. I wish you could be with us this Christmas. Oh please, we need this tree to be special.” His heart pleaded as his boots snapped twigs and broke ice on frozen puddles in tiny bogs as they marched through the woods.
As you know, Christmas magic is extra swirly and twirly when hearts are hurting and asking for miracles. And as you know, when we believe in Christmas magic it becomes that much more strong and intentional.
The wind kicked up as C.W. ‘s family walked among the spruce and cedars. Glittering frost began to twirl about their faces. Mother and Father laughed and little brother clung to the brave dog, and when the frosty glitter swirls settled, there stood the most perfectly imperfect tree.
In his heart, C.W. heard his grandfather’s voice, “There you go my boy, that’s the tree for your family. Tell your mother my love is in that tree. Tell your dad my strength is there. Tell your brother my tenderness is in the soft needles and tell your heart not to despair.”
So C.W. exclaimed that this tree was the one and his father laughed a big belly laugh and his mother’s eyes shimmered. The brave dog ran around and around the trunk and nipped at a few bows, hopping away with a mouth full of needles. Little brother squealed with delight and chased the brave dog off into the brush.
The whole way home, C.W. told his mother about the magic and whispers and the voice of his grandfather and her eyes leaked and made cold pink streaks down her freckled cheeks.
Each day, C.W. woke with joy and wonder in his heart and tenderly caressed the branches of the tree. He sat with the twinkle lights and rearranged the decorations and his heart felt a little less sad with every touch and sparkle. He could feel something inside him stitching itself back together and sometimes if he listened carefully he could hear the voice of his grandfather telling him everything would be alright.
When the day came that the limbs were hanging heavy with all the extra bits and baubles of celebration and shreds of torn paper were tucked into corners with dust bunnies, the tree had to come down.
Mother explained they would remove all the pretty things from the bows and take the tree out of the house before it shed all its needles. If the needles came off, their socks would be full of pokies.
So C.W. walked outside with Mother and Father, little brother made snowballs and tossed them for their brave dog. C.W.’s heart began to ache. He felt as though he was losing a friend, like he was giving up on a true and honest love. He felt as though this was an end. The end.
As the tree went up in flames and the hiss and sizzle of sap-filled needles danced in the air, something broke free in his dear little soul. A feeling of grief he’d not known washed over him. The magic was dead now. Gone and away. And he had helped to undo it. He had helped burn the magical tree.
His heart broke open then. Pieces of it clattering to the floor of his inner soul chambers. Spilling love and sadness all about the dimming glow. He sobbed.
As his body shook with sobs he cried too loud to hear a voice whispering in his soul. When his sobs turned to whimpers and whimpers turned to sniffles he heard the slightest of mumbles within. He still couldn’t make out what it said.
That night, as he said his prayers and cried softly into his pillows, he asked for wisdom. He asked for peace. He asked for answers.
“God, why would you let Grandfather speak to me and give me the perfect tree if you knew we were just going to burn it up. If we were just going to kill the magic?”
His tears felt hot as they slipped down his cheeks and pooled on his pillow. He fell into a deep sleep.
While he slept, C.W. dreamed. He dreamed of glitter and magic and presents and of Santa. He dreamed of forest fairies and snow sprites. He dreamed of baby Jesus and of his grandfather. In his dream his grandfather spoke, “C.W., my dear boy, don’t grieve the magic of your beautiful tree. It was dying from the moment your father cut it down. Christmas trees give their lives for the joy and wonder of Christmas. It’s an honor to be lit aflame after the season of dancing lights. It’s an honor to give warmth in the cold. Your Christmas tree will forever live in your heart, just like I will and you can visit it and visit me anytime you want.”
In his sleep, the boy smiled. He held his grandfather’s hand and walked for a long time. When the gray light of morning tapped at his windows and his eyes began to flutter he gripped his grandfather’s hand tighter.
“Don’t go grandfather. Please don’t leave me.”
The wise voice of Grandfather soothed, “Dear boy, I will never leave you. Just like your Christmas tree, my time here on earth was for a purpose. I brought my gifts and blessings to the world and I witnessed them blossom and bring blessings of their own. You are one of those blessings and your tender heart is your gift to the world. Keep believing in magic and keep your heart full of wonder. I’ll always be with you. Just like your Christmas tree.”
When C.W. woke he could smell his mother’s pancakes and hear her sweet honey singing. His heart felt light yet full. His body felt strong and his head felt wise. He had peace.
C.W. Tenderheart was a boy of adventure and wonder. As he climbed up onto father’s lap in the kitchen, he decided it would keep the joy and magic of his Christmas tree and his grandfather alive in his heart.