Frank Weller pulled the Christmas tree through the front door. His wife, Doris, wanted a fresh tree this year after years of having an artificial one. He asked her why they were doing this commenting that the artificial tree had served them just fine for years.
“I want the smell of fresh pine,” Doris told him. After that, he didn’t question her request. Frank remembered his father bringing in a newly cut pine, the scent wafting through the house. He placed the tree in the oak half-barrel filling it with water.
Frank had to admit the fresh scent of pine and the cold coming off the tree as the snow melted did something for his attitude. Nostalgia. That was it, a childhood memory, remembering his anticipation of Santa coming.
His spirits were high as they put the finishing touches on their Christmas tree. They watched the bubble lights throw off their faint glow while Doris strung popcorn and cranberries on a long thread. Everything was so peaceful and homey.
“Thanks,” he said quietly to his wife of many years.
“For initiating this. I haven’t smelled these smells in over thirty years, and it brings back lovely memories.” Frank put a log on the fire, adding to the ambiance.
“My mother used to make lard and birdseed ornaments to hang on the branches when the tree went outside after Christmas. That way, the birds found shelter and food.” Frank said, reminiscing.
“Oh, I love that idea. I read a recipe in my magazine just yesterday. We’ll do that when this tree is ready to go outside.” Several weeks had passed, and the tree was still fresh in the barrel.
“Don’t you find it odd that the needles aren’t dropping?” Frank asked Doris when the Christmas season was over. She agreed with her husband.
“As long as the needles are on the branches, this tree has a home inside.” Doris took off the Christmas ornaments replacing them with construction paper hearts and lace doilies for Valentine’s Day. February moved on and decorated the tree with shamrocks and then Easter eggs.
“How can this tree keep going?” asked Doris. The tree looked as fresh as the day Frank cut it down. It was lovely, but she wanted her living room back—the decision made, they took the tree outside.
“Doris, look!” Frank pointed as he emptied the barrel. She couldn’t believe her eyes. The tree had sprouted roots. Together, they pulled the tree out into the beautiful spring weather, refilling the oak barrel. Frank even put a few drops of liquid fertilizer in the container. Throughout the summer, the tree remained green as the roots grew. It was as if Easter had resurrected their Christmas tree.
Doris wanted to transplant the evergreen when the roots were healthy enough. Frank dragged that emptied oak barrel to the area in front of the big bay window, where they could enjoy the miracle tree year-round. Between the two of them, they got the tree in the hole.
Frank ran the hose on the tree daily through the summer, giving it love and care.
The Daily Register, the local newspaper, interviewed the couple and asked them, “What is your secret? How have you kept the tree alive for so long?” Frank joked about having love and respect for the tree, and Doris went along with his story.
“Has anyone ever done this before?” Doris asked the reporter, who shook her head. “I’ve never heard of an evergreen tree that was cut down, sprouting roots and being replanted. You should call the University.”
The college students came out to study the tree and looked at the pictures Frank and Doris had taken over the months of the tree in the house. They were also interested in the root pictures taken before replanting the tree.
Frank and Doris enjoyed the notoriety and the company due to the famous tree. They never had children, and living in the country could sometimes get lonely.
“Frank, the kids are here from the high school,” Doris called out to the barn, but Frank didn’t answer. She trotted out to his workshop to find him slumped over his workbench.
“Oh, dear Lord, no!” Doris cried. The ambulance came quickly, but it was too late.
Frank was gone, and Doris left on her own. She was sad thinking about how dreary Christmas would be this year without her husband, grateful that they had a fresh tree their last Christmas together.
On Christmas morning, Doris walked into the living room with no tree, not even an artificial one. It just didn’t seem right to celebrate without Frank. She sighed, pulling her coffee cup into two hands, rocking back and forth in the rocker while she listened to her favorite Christmas Carols.
“Oh!” she exclaimed when she saw a bright red cardinal land on the evergreen outside the bay window. Then, many more cardinals came to sit on the evergreen branches. In all, there were ten cardinals. Doris knew Frank, and friends came to visit to tell her that all was well.
She dug through the old magazines, found the recipe to make seed ornaments, and spent the morning making different shapes to hang on the tree, feeling at peace. Frank had sent a sign that he was near and doing well, a Christmas miracle.
The tree that wouldn’t die continued to grow in front of that bay window for many years, standing over thirty feet tall.
On Christmas morning ten years after Frank died, Doris watched the cardinals flitting from branch to branch in Frank’s tree, enjoying the birdseed ornaments she’d made. She was tired and closed her eyes, drifting off.
When the town heard Doris passed on Christmas Day, all they could talk about was how the tree that wouldn’t die had put down roots the year Frank Weller died and still graced the front yard when Doris went to join her husband.
NOV 2019 / NOV 2022 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH at Spillwords.com
Dawn DeBraal lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband, Red, a dorky rescue dog and a stray cat. She has published over 600 short stories, poems, and drabbles. She also co-authored a novel, what the hell happened to joan? with author Copper Rose.