By Hans Ebert
He knew when he bought it that this was no ordinary Christmas tree. After all, what made a grown man who had never ever celebrated Christmas nor had even received a Christmas present from his parents- they thought it was a waste of time- decide to buy a Christmas tree in August? But that’s just what he had done.
There was just something about that tree. It almost had a life of its own. And when carrying it home and deciding to turn back and return it, the old man who had a small shop from where he had bought it- it was the only thing that was for sale- couldn’t be found. He asked passers by if they knew where the old man and shop were, but no one remembered ever seeing either, especially a shop selling a Christmas tree in August.
So, he carried the tree with him, argued to be allowed onto the bus insisting that the tree had to travel with him, turned a deaf ear to the other passengers unhappy with the branches of this tree seemingly reaching out and tickling them, and then got off at his stop, carried it all the way to his home while people shouted out and laughed that there was a long way to go before Christmas. He didn’t care.
He carried the tree up the stairs and all the way up to the eighth floor where his small apartment was and which only had room for a bed, his guitar, and small table. He looked around as to where he could place the Christmas tree, but there was not much choice. It had to go right in front of the window. The tree seemed happy there. Trees don’t smile, but he thought this one did. He talked to it saying how happy he was that it felt at home. The tree seemed to shake itself in agreement.
By now, nothing surprised him. He had bought a Christmas tree in August from an old man in a shop that didn’t exist, so whatever happened next was not going to surprise him. Or so he thought. He sat by the corner of his bed and thought about his life- how his parents would take him to church, but never celebrated Christmas, and how he never understood the Christmas season.
He thought about how his wife and daughter had gone their separate ways and didn’t even know where he was or even if he were alive. He knew he was a grandfather, but how useless this was when he had never seen his grandchild.
He asked the Christmas tree if he had really been such a bad man that his daughter, who had once looked up to him, and with whom he remembered having many good times, could cut herself off from him so harshly. He wondered whether she thought about him, especially during the night when we put our heads down on the pillow and are finally truly honest with ourselves by allowing in everything we try to block out during our wakening hours.
Most of all, he was searching for inspiration. Somehow, it had disappeared- the inspiration he needed to paint, make music, write and shake off the negativity and lethargy around him that had made him cut himself off from the world and stop being the artist he once was. He looked at his old guitar that he hadn’t picked up in years. There didn’t seem any point to do so. There were no new songs in him. There was nothing he felt worth writing about.
He had become that Nowhere Man living in his nowhere land making all his nowhere plans for nobody.
He desperately needed this inspiration to get back to enjoying life, but it was nowhere to be found- not in the people he met, not in what he was seeing happening in the world, and not in the music being made by others. It was this lack of inspiration and people disappointing him that had made him simplify his life and not depend on anyone.
Somehow, the Christmas tree seemed to be listening to his thoughts. He heard it start to shake its branches. He walked towards it, and the tree reached out to him. It not only reached out to him, it pulled him inside, and into what looked like some enchanted forest. Where was he? What was going on?
Before he had time to think, someone took his hand. It was a little boy who looked strangely familiar. “Take my hand and come along for the ride,” he said in a voice from which his words came out as a song. “Put the past away and see another side. Don’t be so sad, nothing is ever so bad. Sometimes you need to go back to get to where you belong. All you need is some inspiration for the soul to carry on.”
There was a reason the boy looked so familiar. He was him when around five years old. He wanted him to see his past so he could see his future and understand the present. And the man would soon understand what all this meant.
After walking through this forest area with both the sun and the moon above them and trees and flowers of many colours and multi coloured streams, they arrived at a very different looking area- dark, gloomy and desolate except for a long bank of television screens.
“Learn to forgive, learn to give, and mostly learn to forgive yourself,” sang the boy. “Look back, but only to learn from your mistakes. Don’t look back only to hesitate. Forgive others even if they don’t forgive you. This is a beautiful world with every day bringing you something new.”
At that moment, the two entered what the boy called The World Of Life. This was a round room made up of walls of television screens that spun around them with the man seeing moments in his past that he had somehow blocked from his life.
“Don’t feel bad, don’t feel sad, just accept, always accept,” he sang. “You need to go back if you’re to reach the tree of happiness.”
Everything he didn’t want to be reminded about came rushing towards him- voices, scenes, the hurt he had caused his father by never saying goodbye to him, the hurt he had caused his wife with his lies, the father he never was when his daughter was growing up, the cat and dog he loved most of all, those who had hurt him, the best friend he lost early in life, growing up the only child, and which created a cold, distant relationship with his parents.
Everything in his life was flooding back through thousands of visual sound bytes. It was his helter skelter world and where he felt trapped with no escape.
Just as suddenly as it started, the spinning room stopped, and he and the boy felt they were being beamed up higher and higher and onto higher ground. It was far more peaceful here, and far more colourful, where knights rode magnificent horses alongside cowboys and Shaolin monks while magic men flew in a purple sky.
It was where the past met the present and everywhere in between was set in what looked like a mythical and mystical fantasy world. “This is your Christmas present, the one you never had”, sang the boy. “Take in everything around you, learn to accept the good with the bad. The inspiration you’re looking for can only be found in your head. It won’t be found just lying there doing nothing in your bed.”
The man thought about that. How he had given up and his excuse that he needed to be inspired. He realised that all he needed to be inspired was around him- in his past, present and future. The boy placed something into his hands. It was his old guitar.
As he stared at it, the guitar started to play wonderful new melodies that were coming from his heart and his mind. His heart and mind were guiding his fingers. The boy who he once was sang with him. He seemed to know the melodies. He knew what had to be said: “The darkness has gone and the fog has lifted. There’s a new light shining around me.
Can’t be around so much negativity
I can’t be anything more than what I am here to be.”
“This was you before you lost yourself”, said a voice. The voice belonged to a tall, thin old man with shoulder length hair, who he had never seen before. Or had he?
Wait: This was the old man who had sold him the Christmas tree. He didn’t introduce himself. Maybe he didn’t have to? Was everything happening around him part of his past, present and future? Was he finding himself again? Was this the Christmas he never had? Had he found the meaning of Christmas? Where was this leading him?
There was a road sign above him that simply said, Positivity. That man is me, and I have found myself. Where am I heading? Does it matter? Join me. Leave the past behind. You don’t need the extra baggage. It’s weighed me down for too long.
© Hans Ebert