Monday, December 19, 2011

a Christmas story

In 1981 we had arrived at our first assignment as a pastoral couple. The town was Stony Plain, tucked between the rockies and the city of Edmonton, Alberta. I arrived massively pregnant, carrying Jordan and waiting to be delivered. (It is the mother who is delivered, I like to remind everyone. The baby is born, the mother is delivered. Any mother knows this is true.) Anyway, Jordan who we now call JV was born at the beginning of November, a sturdy lad with few complaints.

A few weeks into winter we were invited to go Christmas tree hunting. Christmas trees in northern Alberta are chosen from forests of lodge-pole pines, not soft bristly evergreens. A lodge-pole pine, as the name suggests, is a very tall tree with a straight almost naked trunk that was used by First Nations people as center poles in their lodges/homes. A lodge-pole pine is a tall stick poking the sky, on the top of which is a triangle of green.

To choose a Christmas tree one has to bend their head far backward into the scruff of a stuffed winter coat and eyeball the various tops of trees. In any case, the top will not be as lovely close up as it is high above your head, but one makes due. :)

This winter we agreed to do the Christmas trudge and I bundled newborn JV like a sausage in blankets, his face barely showing, and propped him on a child's sleigh. Ben and Rachel (4 and 6) skipped ahead and with the other family we began our search. A lot of laughter, arguing, snowball throwing and decision making later, I turned and looked back at JV only to find the sled empty!

Somewhere far behind he had been bumped out of the sled and we had not noticed.

With alarm we retraced our steps through the forest and soon found him face down in the snow. He was quite fine, asleep still, as I remember it, warm as a snow cave can make a person. His little face was rosy but not frost bitten, and he was none the worse for wear.

I think back over all I have lost and found over the years. I lost Mark, and I found him. I lost JV on another occasion and found him. But some things are more amorphous. I've lost hope and found it. I've lost courage and found it. I guess if Christmas is anything it is supposed to remind us that what we see as a dead end or a complete loss can always be given back to us, maybe in a completely different form. We cannot hold onto everything that is. But something new is always being born.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the perspective. Change and loss, the only sure things in life.

rachel said...

huh. <3 this.

RedRocket said...

Mrs. Elliott going on our hunting of Christmas trees with your family is one of my fondest memories from childhood. I remember how much you and mom also loved the first snowfall of the season. Wishing you a Happy New Year! Melanie Burant (Duckering)

Marilyn said...

Loved the comment from Melanie - wow! A voice from the past. I hear you have a beautiful little life, Mel. Give your mom my love!