A Christmas Tree Heist
by Shirley L.
Before I begin to tell my story, I would like the readers to know the situation I was in when this event happened. Under normal circumstances, I would never have been tempted to do such a thing. But this was an exception. All I can say is that I can laugh about the incident now, but at the time it was very real and frightening.
It happened many years ago just before Christmas. On December 20, 1958, one year prior to the actual event happened, my husband unexpectedly passed away at the age of 23 in a car accident. Leaving me with two little girls and one on the way. I was only 19 then. All of a sudden, I had all the financial responsibilities to support my family as I didn’t have any relatives to rely on. Until then, Christmas had been joyous occasions surrounded by warm holiday spirit in our home.
But Christmas of 1959 was a different matter. It was a very difficult year for me. As the one year anniversary of my husband’s death was approaching, I didn’t know how to cope with the hardship I was encountering. I not only didn’t feel like celebrating Christmas, but I was broke. I couldn’t afford to buy any gifts for my girls nor a Christmas tree. It was hard enough just to feed and clothe my children after my husband’s passing. Most of the days, I was very sad and felt very, very alone. But when I thought about my children, I knew I had to be strong. So I was determined to make my girls happy regardless of my own feelings for Christmas. After all, they had no idea of the circumstance I was placed in. I desperately needed to do something to make the girls happy. What could I do? If we could at least have a Christmas tree in the house, how delighted my girls would be. The thought pleased me tremendously.
A few days before Christmas, I finally had enough courage to take action. I knew the place where a camper parked in an empty lot and sold Christmas trees. It was about six or so blocks away from my home. As midnight was nearing I picked up my winter coat and left home very quietly leaving three sleeping children at home. It was a bitter cold winter. I had a sense of urgency having left my children home alone. My heart began to beat fast. I rushed out to the lot where the Christmas trees were sold.
When I arrived, I could see a light in the camper on the lot. Obviously there was someone in it. As not to be caught, I quietly crept into the lot and finally approached the place where fresh Christmas trees were displayed to be sold. I checked around the place to see no one was watching. My heart began to race even harder. I had never done this kind of thing before… When I made sure that no one was there, I quickly picked up one of the trees and then slowly inched my way out of the lot. I was so scared I don’t think I took even one breath the whole time. I then crossed the quiet street and looked back towards the lot. Thankfully, no one came out of the camper.
“I had my tree!!” I could picture the smiles of my girls when they would see this tree! I then walked as fast as I could. For the first time, I realized how cold it was outside. My fingers and ears were freezing. I didn’t have my gloves or a hat to keep me warm. Though it was only 6 blocks away from home, it felt as if it were eternity.
A few blocks later, all of a sudden a car pulled alongside where I was dragging the tree. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a policeman behind the car window. “Oh my Lord, I’m going to jail!” That was my first thought. I ignored what I saw and kept walking with my head down hoping that they didn’t notice me. Then one of the policemen rolled down the car window and said to me,
“Can we give you a lift?” I gasped but didn’t turn to him. Avoiding eye contact with him, I quietly said,
“No thank you.”
I kept moving on ignoring him completely. I was sure that they knew I had stolen the tree. I began to question myself ‘Had they seen me when I was stealing the tree or were they just having fun with me?’
The rest of the way home, I kept an eye out just in case the police car followed me.
A few minutes later, which felt like an hour because of the fear of being caught, I finally arrived home. As soon as I enter the house, I went to the window of the living room to peek out the window. I had to make absolutely sure that the police car didn’t follow me. Thankfully, outside was dark and very quiet. No sign of any car nor people passing by. I finally felt a sigh of relief. Then I went to the bedrooms to check the children. When I saw the sleeping faces I thought, ‘All this is for my babies… I love you so much.’ I quietly closed the door as I still had to hoist the tree up before I went to bed.
That was when I realized that I encountered another problem. When I was at the Christmas tree lot, I was concentrating so hard on just bringing a tree back home, I didn’t realize the size of the tree I picked. No wonder the policeman offered me a ride. The trunk of the tree was so wide, it didn’t even fit the tree stand I had. Even now, I don’t know how I managed to drag a tree that big. So for the next couple of hours, I wound up chiseling away at the frozen tree using only my kitchen knife so the tree would fit the stand. After I managed to put up the tree by the window, I looked at it with satisfaction. The tree stood very proud in the room almost touching the ceiling. It was a beautiful sight that I would never forget.
The next morning, when I went to the living room, I was pleasantly surprised. The tree thawed during the night and gradually filled the room with a fresh pine scent. It was heavenly. Soon after the girls woke they spotted the tree. They were all excited and smiling from ear to ear while staring up at the great big tree. As small as the girls were, they all helped me decorate it that day. The living room was filled with the laughter of my children all day long. The Christmas spirit was back in my home!!
Guilty? Yes. But when I saw the delighted faces of my girls, I knew I did the right thing. Nothing could have made me happier than seeing those faces of my darlings. Even now I can still see the twinkles in my girls’ eyes when they spotted the Christmas tree that morning as if it had happened just yesterday. My heart continues to be filled with joy whenever I think of Christmas 1959.