The Aroma of Pine

Excerpted from A Journey For Our Times, the autobiography of Harrison E. Salisbury, © 1983:

In the bay window where the Christmas tree stood, stiff lace curtains hung. Father had had candles on his tree since childhood in Mazomanie, and he had them as long as we celebrated Christmas at 107 Royalston, small candles of red, white, blue, green and yellow affixed to the branches with snap holders.

The tree was lighted at evening. Mother presided over a pail of water. Dad, matches in hand, climbed a stepladder and lighted the candles, one by one, until the tree sparkled with captured stars. Almost immediately the aroma of pine filled the room as the candles warmed the needles. Janet and I sat beside the tree in delight edged by fear communicated by Mother. Dad seemed oblivious of the moment, his gray-blue eyes distant, a smile on his face such as I never saw at other times. Mother hovered beside the water pail, nervously calculating the distance between herself and the tree, an exercise in emotional geometry. Hardly were the candles lighted than she said: “Perce– that’s enough, don’t you think?” Dad would stare at the tree. He was years away from the present. God knows what thoughts were passing through his mind. He would not answer. Possibly he did not hear. He sat and watched the play of lights, the reflected image on the plate-glass window. Three or four minutes passed. Mother spoke again: “Really, Percy, I think we’d better put them out. They’re beginning to burn down.” Soon, very quickly, she would stride to the tree and begin to snuff out the candles, and Dad, with reluctance that slowed every muscle in his body, rose and helped at the task. Christmas was over.

I just love the way he writes.  This is a book to read slowly, so every line is savored.

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