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CHRISTMAS MEMORIES II

Story ID:1300
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Brandywine Maryland USA
Year:1964
Person:Boy with Leukemia
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My head was swimming. I couldnít believe the conversation that had just taken place. How could such a thing be? A little boy was going to die? They wanted a Christmas tree?

I was stationed in the Air Force at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. I had purchased a home in a little town called Brandywine about twelve miles from the base. For extra income to supplement my Air Force salary, I had a small business on the side. I did carpentry, painting, landscaping and lawn mowing, and anything else people were willing to hire me for. I had purchased a used 1-ton panel truck with ladder racks on the roof. I guess I was what people call ďa jack of all trades.Ē

There was a country store in the town called Freddy Garnerís store. A lovely woman named Mary worked in the store. I had just been in the store and Mary told me of an Air Force family who had recently moved into family quarters at the Nike Missile sight a few miles away. The missiles were for anti-aircraft protection of the nationís capital.

She told me this family had a little boy, aged eight. He was dying from leukemia. He soon was to have a birthday. He wanted very much to see Christmas before he died. His family wanted to celebrate Christmas with him at the same time as his birthday, believing that he would not live until Christmas. The doctors had told them it was unlikely and they didnít want to take the chance. They wanted him to have his Christmas.

The family was making all the arrangements to celebrate Christmas in a few days but they had one problem. It was very warm in the month of September. It was too early for Christmas trees to come on the market, and they couldnít find a Christmas tree farm in the area. In 1965 artificial trees were not as commonplace as they are now, and were not in the stores that early. Besides, their boy would prefer a real tree.

Mary told them she knew a man who she bet could get them one if anybody could, and when she saw him, sheíd ask him about it. When I went to the counter to pay for my items, she told me the story and I was the man she had told them about. She said she bet I could get a tree for them. I said I bet I could.

Mary told me when they had to have the tree, and gave me directions to where they lived. I still had a few days so I went to work. I knew an area that was all woods on one side of the road and a field that hadnít been used in years was overgrown with pine trees that had taken seed and grown.

I put a handsaw, an axe, some scrap pieces of lumber, and a hammer and nails in my truck. Then I drove to the area where all the volunteer pine trees were. I looked at a number of trees that might have been adequate, but I wanted to get one that was just right. Most were either too short, or too scraggly, or maybe had a large space without branches on one side. Finally I found one growing at the edge of the ditch on highway right-of-way. It was unlikely anyone could object to that one being cut. It was the perfect size and shape and the symmetry was perfect. I cut the tree and loaded it into the back of my truck and drove to the Nike Missile site family quarters.

When I arrived and went to the door, a Technical Sergeant in uniform opened the door. I asked if he were the one looking for a Christmas tree. At that, his face lit up like one and he called his wife to come to the door. They were overjoyed that I had come with a tree. They never thought they were ever going to see one.

I asked them if they had a tree stand and they said they did not. I pulled the tree part way out of the truck, got my scraps of lumber and proceeded to make a stand for the tree. When it was finished I carried the tree inside. They introduced me to the little boy. The boy gave me a handshake and a big smile.

It was in September, but that Christmas was the most memorable of all to me. I later learned the boy had a double Christmas. He had the one that was celebrated for him together with his birthday, and he lived to see the regular Christmas again in December. He was a brave little fellow who was aware of what was happening to him. He enjoyed them both, but was only able to participate in the first one. The second one he was too weak and just watched from his bed. I am told he was gone five days after the second Christmas.

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