Brenda Hynes McDonald’s “A Christmas Ago”

pine cone

“The year this story was written, it was read on Christmas Eve to my grandchildren, who live several hundred miles away. Unknown to anyone, there was at that time, wrapped up under the Christmas tree, a gift my granddaughterhad made for her mom.It was a pine cone.” -Brenda McDonald

A Christmas Ago

Brenda McDonald

Brenda Hynes McDonald

 By Brenda Hynes McDonald

The sun sparkled on the snow like tiny diamonds, but Waldo had been there a long time and didn’t notice. He was chilly. It was late afternoon on Christmas Eve, and below, he could see the children skating on the frozen pond in Binney Park. Their shouts and laughter filled the air. On a nearby bench, two young girls laced up their figure skates, then, in matching outfits, began skating, spinning and leaping high in the air until a little dog ran on the ice, slipping and sliding between them and they all fell in a heap.

Waldo was chilly as, unnoticed, he watched other skaters warm up by the fireplace in the open, stone gazebo by the bridge. On the other side of the bridge, a few ducks swam idly in the open water.

From his place up high, He saw, not too far away, a young boy, with his arms piled high with books, struggle to open the heavy oaken door of the Perrot Memorial Library.

As darkness crept in, One by one, the skaters left, and soon all was quiet on the pond, except for an occasional “boom,” as the ice expanded and cracked.

After what seemed like a long time, the colored Christmas lights on the tall, stately pine tree seemed to explode and all was aglow.

Waldo was protected and comfortable among the branches and the lights warmed him slightly.

Soon young and old gathered beneath him, greeting one another with cheery Yuletide wishes. Hidden, he heard children’s voices singing, looked down and watched as, in a long grand procession, they came down the hill from the First Congregational Church, across the street from the park. They held lighted candles and wore short red capes over their warm coats. Their voices,rang out, filling the crisp night air with “Joy to the World.” Everyone around the evergreen lit their own candles to see their Christmas carol books with all the words and joined the singing.

Waldo was comfortable, unseen, but still a bit chilly, as a light snow began to fall.

Among the carolers was a small girl, named Grace. She was with her mom and they had spent the day having a wonderful time getting ready for Christmas with her two cousins, Pete and Mike. They made gingerbread cookies for Santa, decorated the tree they had cut down, and put up the little Christmas village. But Grace was not ready for Christmas. She had no gift for her mom because she wanted to give her something very special and she didn’t know what that would be.

After singing many beautiful songs, everyone sang “Silent Night” and the caroling was finished. They blew out their candles and wished each other “Merry Christmas,” as they turned to leave.

Waldo had enjoyed the singing, but high above, he began to lose his hold and all at once he was falling through the evergreen branches. He landed softly on the pine needles right where Grace and her Mom were standing.

All at once, Grace saw him, looked at him for a moment, then picked him up and tucked him in her jacket pocket. Now she knew she had the perfect gift for her mom. She was excited as she got in the car. He was happy to be warm in her pocket, but wondered what would happen to him. He already missed his place in the pine tree.

On the way home, Grace remembered something. ” Mom” she said, “can we go through the tunnel and blow the horn?” “Well, honey” her mom said, “it’s a bit out of the way, but, sure we can. In fact, why don’t you blow the horn.”

As they went through the narrow tunnel under the elevated railroad tracks, Grace leaned toward the steering wheel and hit the horn three times. Grace & her mom laughed at the familiar extra loud horn sound echoing off the stone walls.

“Ow,” Waldo thought, as he nestled inside her pocket, and heard the loud “beep, beep, beep.” “That hurts my ears!” He was beginning to miss his old place in the park and thought, “oh, dear, where AM I going?”

As they drove up the hill toward home, Grace reached in her pocket to make sure her mom’s special gift was still there. It felt a bit damp, but she could dry it and she imagined how she would wrap it in pretty paper, ribbon, and a bow and put it under the Christmas tree. She hoped her mom would like her present.

After dinner, Grace put her mom’s wrapped gift under the Christmas tree. Then she said, “Oh, Mom, we almost forgot to fill the bird feeders, so the birds have a good Christmas breakfast!” So they went outside filled the snowy feeders with sunflower seeds and thistle, and hung up suet, as an extra treat!

When they came back inside, it was time for Grace to snuggle into her bed. They put out gingerbread cookies for Santa, made sure the stockings were hung and then cuddled up together, so Grace’s mom could read, “The Night Before Christmas.” They kissed each other goodnight and Grace closed her eyes, but she was very excited!

When all was quiet, Waldo tried to move, but he was covered with some kind of paper and had something wrapped around him, tight. So, he wiggled and wiggled and finally got free. He looked around. There was a pine tree above him, just like the pine tree in the park, but smaller. This one had beautiful colored lights AND shiny balls, red, green, gold, blue and silver. “What a strange tree,” he thought. Then he looked and saw strange things hanging from the branches, and a star on top! “Where am I?,” he said to no one. A strange voice said, “You are in a magical place on the most magical night of the year.”

Just then, a clown hanging from the tree jumped down, then a small teddy bear, an elf, a soldier, a horse. Soon, all the toys from the tree were dancing and singing, and a toy train was going around and around.

Waldo really didn’t know what to think, so he began dancing and singing with everyone!

What a grand time they were having! Soon the clock struck 12 and everything stopped. “What’s happening?” he asked no one.

“It sounds like Santa is here. I think he’s on the roof, right now,” said the clown. “Who’s Santa, and why is he here?” now Waldo was really confused. “Don’t you know who Santa is? The clown sounded impatient. ” Look,” Waldo said, “I just fell out of a tree and someone brought me here, tied me up and left me under this tree. It’s not my tree, it’s not my home and I don’t know anyone here, or anything about being here. Everything is different and I want to go back to Binney Park, where I was.”

As he said all this everyone gathered around him. “Don’t worry, the clown said. “We we all new here once. We’ll be your friends. Now, Let me explain. This is Christmas Eve. Santa Claus is the spirit of Christmas, the spirit of giving, and he goes all around the world, to each house to all who believe, bringing gifts and good cheer. Every year we all get put on a pine tree, here, as part of the celebration and the rest of the year, we hang out together in a big box. Each of us was specially chosen to be ornaments on the Christmas tree for this family and so were you. It is quite wonderful, you’ll see!”

Just then another voice said, “Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas!.” It was Santa Claus. As all the ornaments went back on the tree,

Santa began filling Grace’s stocking and putting gifts under the tree. He had an elf to help him and they were very quick. The elf spotted the cookies with Grace’s note and took a bite, but Santa said, “Hey, not yet, help me put this car together!

As Waldo watched, He had to jump to get out of the way. His wrapper and ribbon got buried under all the gifts.

After Santa left, Waldo looked at the gifts, wrapped in beautiful paper & ribbons and said to no one, “Can someone help me out, here? I’m all unwrapped!” Quickly, the clown jumped off the tree, found the colored wrapping paper and wrapped Waldo back up. “Hey, too tight, man,” Waldo complained. “Picky. picky, picky,” said the clown, as he loosened the bow. “Now, get some sleep, you’ll need it!” And he put the rewrapped Waldo back under the tree.

The clown got back on the tree, looked around and said, “O.k., places everyone. Star, get back to the top of the tree. Everyone, it’s time to get some “shut eye.” Let’s hear some quiet singing.” So they all sang “Oh,Little Town of Bethlehem” as the train came to a halt at the station. The colored lights went off.

Waldo listened through his wrapping paper and felt shut in and shut out. “Hey,” he said, again, to no one, ‘“Aren’t I supposed to be hanging on the tree with you guys?” “Speak up,” said the clown, “we can’t hear you mumbling in that wrapping paper.” So Waldo said louder, ‘“Aren’t I supposed to be hanging on the tree with you guys?”

“Be patient, my man, you will be – that’s the magical part,” said the Clown. “Now get some sleep!” So Waldo went fast asleep with the others. He dreamed of hanging on the Christmas tree by the star. Someone had once said, “Reach for the stars,” so he figured that’s what he would do!

As Santa Claus continued around the world, the sky turned from black to grey, then, almost white, and snow fell gently. Deena’s kitty cat, Barney, who slept at the end of her bed, woke up, stretched a long cat-stretch and yawned, then walked away. Deena got out of bed and followed. Barney had gone straight to the Christmas tree and was chewing open a wrapped package of catnip! Deena stood still and her eyes opened wide when she saw so many presents and her stocking overflowing with toys. “Mommy, Mommy, Santa came. Come and see!” she shouted. Her mom would have liked another hour of sleep, but she went to the kitchen, gave thanks for the auto coffee-maker, poured herself a cup of coffee, some juice for Deena and went to see all the wondrous signs that Santa HAD come. She hugged Deena and said, Merry Christmas, honey!

Deena was overjoyed to see her remote-control car, just like her cousins’, and her new extra large teddybear, dressed just like Lea from Star Wars! When it seemed like everything was unwrapped, Deena’s mom said, “Are you ready for breakfast? I made something special for us.” “O.K., said Deena, but she really wanted to play with her new toys.

And then, Deena remembered the small gift she had wrapped for her mom. She had been so excited to have something to give her, but as she picked it up, hidden under the tree, now she thought it might not be such a good gift.

They were having breakfast, watching the birds at the bird-feeder, and the funny squirrel hanging upside down, trying to get the birdseed. Deena gave her mom her gift and said “Merry Christmas, Mommy. This is for you.”

Deena’s mom carefully removed the ribbon and paper, looked at the beautiful pine cone and said, “Oh honey, you gave me the perfect gift.”  “I did?” said Deena, not sure at all. “Yes,” said her Mom, “we’ll hang this on the tree with the other ornaments and it will always remind us of this special Christmas we’re having together. There is a story about how each of the ornaments came to be on our tree. Some of them I gave my mom, when I was a little girl. That makes the Christmas tree almost magic. Someday, when you have a little girl, you can put this pine cone on your tree and tell her the story. Now, where shall we hang it?” Deena said “Let’s hang it up high,” and she reached up on tiptoes, but was not quite tall enough, so her mom helped her and she hung the pine cone right by the star. Deena was very glad her mom liked her gift, but she didn’t quite get why. She liked her toys much better.

Waldo was very happy to be untied, unwrapped and on the tree, by the star, though it wasn’t the Binney Park pine tree by the pond.

That night when all was quite again, he thought about all that had happened. He was glad he had been chosen as a gift for Deena’s mom. Clown had been right when he told him to be patient, that it was almost magical. He decided he would like his new friends, and Waldo, the pine cone from Binney Park said to no one, and everyone, “Merry Christmas.” Clown answered, “Now you’ve got the Spirit, welcome, my man.”

Comments are closed.