Saturday I took the tree down, and with Buddy the dog happily prancing ahead of me, I dragged it through the pasture. Then without any fanfare, I threw it on the brush pile, thus ending another Christmas season. We like to hang onto good times a little longer at our house I guess, but sooner or later you have to move on and rely on memories and pictures to keep the spirit alive. Please allow me to share just one more story about this Christmas.
A friend of mine showed me a present she received for Christmas this year. It wasn’t expensive, it wasn’t new, and it wasn’t useful or even practical. It was just six pages written in beautiful cursive handwriting.
Once upon a time a 9-year old boy named Peter sat down to write. I can’t tell if this had been a school assignment, a suggestion from his mother, or if the mood had just hit him. Peter talked about how much he weighed, how tall he was, the color of his hair and eyes. In Peter’s first essay I learned that his father was a farmer and that Peter had to walk two miles to go to school.
The following year Peter wrote a letter to his friend James (and perhaps never sent it) happily reporting about the skates he received for Christmas and he included a “hearty,” thank you for the “kind present’ James had given him.
The next four essays, written during the next few years, were about Christmas. According to Peter, his “family likes to sing hymns on Christmas evening.” Winter was a “jolly season,” with “sleigh bells jingling on the streets.” The house was decorated “with holly and mistletoe.” But even as a little boy Peter knew that winter was hard on some because he wrote, “poor people don’t like winter because they have not enough money to buy coal to keep their houses warm.”
It’s obvious that this was written a long time ago. When Peter sat down to write he had no way of knowing what a great gift he would be giving his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren 90 years later. Fortunately, Peter, or most likely Peter’s mother, saved these writings in a special box.
Recently, that box was discovered by Peter’s granddaughter. Recognizing how special these words were, she and her mother made several beautiful copies and gave them to Peter’s children this past Christmas.
What a wonderful legacy. The words of a little boy, written long ago, saved by his mother, then again by him, to be read and shared over 90 years later are priceless. We only have a glimpse of a little boy and his world. Both are gone now, but because Peter’s written words were preserved, his family can learn a little more about him and feel a little closer to the man who was once a little boy.
Learn from Peter and write. Write your story and leave a legacy that time cannot erase. Write a letter to a friend, describe yourself, write about your father, record how your family celebrates Christmas or keep a journal, because someday somebody will want to read what you wrote.
When I turned from the brush pile toward the barn I was surprised to see the trail left by the tree and me. Dragging the tree through the pasture had mixed the leaves on the ground with the dusting of snow that fell last week. I had left a mark that showed I had been there. Soon time, wind and weather will erase all evidence of my passing. To leave a more permanent trail of life’s journeys, Peter’s family recommends ink and paper.