In the late 1950s, when I was just a little girl, we lived in a tiny house on my aunt’s property. My aunt’s house was at the front by the road, and our place was at the back, down a long path across the lawn. Wherever we walked, my father would carry me on his shoulders. From there I could see forever and be a pirate in a crow’s nest or a cowgirl on her horse, held safe on my perch by my father’s strong hands around my ankles.
One evening just before Christmas, Mom bundled me up in my snowsuit and we headed to my aunt’s house for the evening. From my Dad’s shoulders, I could see the blanket of snow that softly covered my world stretch out forever, glittering and sparkling in the moonlight. We had dinner, followed by the special maple sugar cake that my aunt only made at Christmas time. I played and coloured while the adults played cards, then fell asleep in my aunt’s bedroom, lulled by the sound of voices and laughter from the kitchen.
Sometime later, Mom woke me and bundled me up in my snowsuit again for the walk home. As we headed down the path, I was roused from my half-sleep by the excited sound of my Dad’s voice. “Look,” he said, “someone has been to our house.”
I looked down and saw tiny footprints in the snow, two sets heading towards our house, and two sets heading back. Who could that be?
“They must have brought something,” my Dad said, “you can see where they have dragged it through the snow.” Sure enough, there between the two sets of tiny prints leading toward our house, was a wide trail that just broke the crust of the sparkly snow.
Then, as we got closer to the house—I saw IT. There on our front porch under the glow of the porch light was the biggest, most beautiful Christmas tree I had ever seen!
“The elves must have bought it,” my father said. “Those are elf footprints.”
Years later Mom told me how my Dad had snuck away while I was sleeping and dragged the tree across the snow to our house. Then he had taken a pair of my shoes and painstakingly worked out in the cold night making the tiny footprints.
I was 23 when my father died of cancer. Even though a lifetime has passed, I don’t think there has ever been a day when I haven’t thought about him, but never more than at Christmas. Sometimes I sit late at night with only the lights on the Christmas tree softly glowing. I think about that magical night so long ago and feel myself riding high above a world where anything is possible, held safe and tight on his shoulders.