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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, December 25, 2004

Our Little Tree

 •  Little Maile makes a very pretty Christmouse

By Paul Guncheon
Special to the Advertiser

An absolutely positively true story that really happened I'm not kidding

My brother Joe and I know a couple of things about Dad (we call him "Papa"). We know Papa is smart. Real smart. We know that he's smart because he tells us how smart he is all the time, but that's not the only reason why. Papa is not only smart-smart, but also clever smart. I think it's because sometimes he sees things differently.

Like that time with the Christmas tree.

Papa is from Chicago, and every Christmas he and his Papa (whom he called "Dad") would set out on a quest to find the perfect tree. Usually it was at night after his papa (called "Dad) got off work. Christmas tree here in Hawai'i always look like trees, but being as it was Chicago in winter and the temperature was somewhere around that of the surface of Pluto, the trees there looked more like frozen beetle carcasses than actual plants. Papa said he had a sixth sense about whether one of the icy lumps might actually be a Christmas tree.

Papa says it was so cold in Chicago at Christmas, they had to start the car in July so it would be warm in December when they went looking for a tree.

So, anyway, this year Papa waited until Christmas Eve to buy a tree, because he had checked them out weeks before. He said the cheapest tree was around $7 million. He said we could have bought one, but then we would have had to give up unnecessary luxuries for the rest of the year. Luxuries like food and water

Papa figured that, on Christmas Eve, the tree sellers would be trying to get rid of their trees and would be selling them cheap.

Papa was almost right. We drove all over the island looking for trees, from Windward Mall to Hawai'i Kai to Waipahu to Ala Moana. All the tree lots were empty. The tree sellers had gotten rid of all their trees the day before Christmas Eve.

At the last lot on Pensacola Street, Papa got out of the car and said he was going to pick up some branches so at least we would have the smell of a tree in the house. As we watched him pick up twigs and sticks, he suddenly stared at the Dumpster. There was a pretty good-sized branch sticking out from under the lid. He pulled it out and put it in the trunk of the car.

It was late when we got home, almost dark, and after we had dinner, it was time for Joe and I to go to bed. Papa had dragged the branch into the house and we finally got a good look at it. "Papa," I said. "It's not a Christmas tree. It's a stick . . . a Dumpster stick. Who ever heard of a Christmas Dumpster stick?"

Papa said he knew a few tricks about Christmas sticks, and he gathered a few tools. A few tools, like a staple gun, wire, hammer, nails, masking tape, fishing line, glue gun, air compressor and who knows what else? Papa has a lot of tools.

What is it with parents? Why do they buy you new pajamas on Christmas Eve? I suppose it's so you'll look nice for the pictures Christmas morning. You ever try to sleep in new pajamas? For that matter, ever try and sleep on Christmas Eve? It's the only time I never argue about going to bed. I figure, the sooner you go to bed, the sooner you get the presents.


So I got to bed about 2 minutes after dark. My mind is racing, "Toys, toys, toys . . . " and I fall into a kind of vibro-sleep. When I wake up, I'm ready for the presents. Unfortunately it's only six minutes after dark. This goes on all night every Christmas Eve. This year, I hear Papa working on the tree until very late. Then I hear him walking to the tree. He was telling it how happy we were to have it for our tree and how beautiful it was. Right . . . the beautiful Christmas Dumpster stick.

Morning finally came, and as we ran into the living room, we stopped and stared. There, surrounded by presents, stood a beautiful Christmas tree with ornaments and everything.

"Papa, when did you get a new tree?"

"It's the same tree," he replied.

"But Papa, it's way bigger and fatter than the old junk tree."

"Listen and I'll tell you a secret," he said. "I spoke with the tree last night. I told it how happy we were to have it for our tree. I told it how beautiful it was and that we were honored to have it shield our gifts and hold our ornaments. And do you know what? The tree answered me."

"What did the tree say, Papa?" I asked, with my Papa's-going-to-make-another-really-dumb-joke-again voice.

"The tree told me that it had been very sad to be in a Dumpster," he began. "It had been dark and smelled bad, but that was not the worst of it. The worst of it was knowing that it would never be a Christmas tree.

"Its whole life had been for nothing. It had been cut down and thrown away without ever having had a chance. It had been lonely with no one to talk to. Well, there were some old foam coffee cups in there but as you know, even on the best of days, they are not very friendly.

"When I opened the Dumpster, the tree had been so happy that it almost hugged me, or so it said. When I started to put on the ornaments, its joy was so great that it wanted to jump up and run around the room, but such outrageous behavior is sternly discouraged in the tree world. It then said 'Thank you,' and promised to be the biggest and best Christmas tree it could be. I think that's why the tree looks the way it looks, why it changed so much. We saved it. Some things just need to be given a chance."

So we sat quietly and looked at our beautiful "Christmas Dumpster stick."

See what I mean? Papa is pretty smart.