Other Things #27 – The Christmas Tree That Changed My life

One December night, when my son was just over a year old, I went to Woodwards at the Chinook Centre in Calgary to buy an artificial Christmas tree that was on sale. I had decided that it would be a good idea to raise Jeffrey with an artificial tree as it would be much easier than dealing with a live tree each year. I bought the tree, and pushed a shopping cart with the cumbersome box out to my car in the parking lot.

Once at my car, my struggle began. I had a four-door sedan, and I was determined to get the tree into the car. The box that the tree came in had different plans, and the fight was on. Unbeknownst to me, a woman was pushing a cart out to her vehicle, and she was watching as I wrestled with the box. She could tell there was no way the box was going to fit, and on her way over to tell me, she realized who I was.

Laurie had been a friend since the time I was 11 or 12, although she was actually considered my older sister’s friend. She had gotten married and begun a family years before I did, and she had moved to a different part of the city. Because of the distance, and the fact that our lives were then so different, she and I had drifted apart, and we seldom saw each other. Years before, my entire family had always enjoyed seeing Laurie, and my father, who was a wonderful judge of character once said, with great approval in his voice, “That Laurie’s somebody else again.”

That night in the dark parking lot, it just so happened that Laurie was driving a station wagon, and we loaded the tree into it. She then followed me back to the house I was living in at the time, and we realized that we were now located about seven minutes apart. We sat and had tea that night and made plans to see each other again.

From that point on, Laurie and I got together regularly, and the next year, she was seeing me through one of the darkest chapters in my life because my marriage was falling apart. Through the years of single-motherhood, I was able to look forward to Friday nights because Laurie, her kids, Jeffrey, and I would go to McDonald’s together. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were at Laurie’s, and my mother was there with us as my father had died the year before Jeff was born.

Five years after my marriage ended, Laurie introduced me to Nathan, the man she thought I really needed to meet, and then about two and a half years later, we were married in her family’s living room.

When my mother moved to a seniors’ lodge, Laurie helped me deal with packing up my parents’ home, and 25 years ago, when Nathan and I moved into the house we still live in — which is only three blocks from Laurie’s — she and her family put in hours and hours helping with the packing, unpacking, and wall-washing.

A few nights ago, we were at Laurie’s for Christmas dinner and had a wonderful time and fantastic meal. When we aren’t there, then dinner is at our house, and the two families have spent close to 30 Christmas dinners together.

Laurie has been my support through every major and minor crisis in my life since we loaded the Christmas tree into her station wagon that night. Nathan calls her his ”Guardian Angel”, and many times through the years, he too has sought her advice because she understands people and is full of common sense, wisdom, and kindness.

There is no question that life would be much different for Nathan, Jeffrey, and me had a Christmas tree inside a box fit into a four-door sedan.

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