Cleared for take off

She has been unceremoniously dragged out of the house, dropped at curbside and whisked away to the big chipper in the sky. Her demise signals the end of the festive season. For more than two weeks her flashing and twinkling adorned our front room – not a bad run for a Christmas tree.

We brought her home from a lot next to the Woodside Tavern. I saw her immediately as I stepped out of the car. She was the perfect shape and height, a fine South Shore balsam. The tree farmer was about my age and had been selling from this spot for over 20 years.

Christmas tree farmers had a tough year in 2007. This farmer said 2009 was looking fine, just as good as 2008. StatsCan gives a good round up of the industry in Christmas Trees… by the numbers.

Our most extraordinary gift this year was Lila-Jeanne’s arrival. Grand-maman and grand-papa drove from Sorel to share in her first holiday season and our first as a family in Eastern Passage. Then on Christmas Eve, Mélanie’s sister Stéphanie arrived out of the blue for a surprise visit that set the kids off on a goofy, giggling fest.

This was Noah’s first truly conscious year of reckoning about the Santa factor. Pre-school and the Great Christmas Concert helped to get the bells on bobsleds ringing for our lad.

Instead of a letter to Père Nöel, Noah thought he would draw pictures of the toys he would like to find under the tree. No drawing was ever created but there was lots of talk about the toys. He had a recurring request, wish, dream in the days leading up to Christmas. Car conversations frequently got stuck on the Christmas channel and went something like this.

Noah – “Papa, do you know what I want for Christmas?”

Me – “No Noah, I don’t know, what?”

What he wanted had been seared into my memory and I was still at a loss as to how we would fulfill our little lad’s burning desire.

Noah – “Papa, I want an airport for Christmas.” Pause for effect and clarification in the event that dimwitted, dullard papa is not able to grasp his intent. “Not airplanes. I don’t want airplanes papa. I want an airport. I’ll draw one for Santa.”

Me – “Making a drawing is a great idea Noah. We’ll have to wait and see what Santa brings…”

Grand-papa Raymond has found 10 small die-cast, military airplanes. He’s as psyched about giving them as he hopes Noah will be about receiving them. I’m starting to get nervous about unfulfilled expectations and a potential mach 2 burn out and crash. Noah forges ahead in the Christmas spirit.

Noah – “Nellie, what do you want for Christmas from Santa?”

NellieNellie’s head is lolling about, engaged in her own thoughts.

Noah – “Nellie, do you want an aiport?”

NellieShe’s not biting. A light, insouciant silence says it all.

Noah – “A farm Nellie? Nellie, a farm? Do you want Santa to bring you a farm?”

Nellie – “Okaaaaaaaaaaaaay.”

It’s Nellie’s inimitable drawl. I interpret it loosely as, “Well sure, don’t mind if I do. It sounds like a good idea. I’d love a farm.” Our girl can pack a lot into a couple of syllables.

Noah – “Ok Nellie, ok. We’ll tell Santa Nellie.”

Noah takes on his sweet, worldly, older brother persona. It’s like he will intercede on Nellie’s behalf to make sure that farm, a barnyard of animals and a winter’s worth of hay are stuffed into Santa’s sack of presents.

He is after all getting pretty savvy. He saw Santa up close and personal at least twice within a week and walked away with prezzies both times. He asks the right questions too. Noah wants to make sure he’s getting the whole picture. Following Santa’s visit to the staff Christmas party for kids he looked up at me with inquiring eyes and asked, “Papa, where are the reindeer?” I told him they were on the roof of the building. At four, when your papa tells you something like this, it’s totally plausible. He looked at me as if to say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

On Christmas Eve just before 23h00 we start making reindeer sound effects – hooves clacking on roofs, and bells jingling. The kids don’t hear a thing. We have to go in and wake them up. It doesn’t take them too long to come around after we tell them that Santa has just left. Paper is exuberantly ripped off gifts resulting in ooooos and ahhhhhhhs. I’m sure that the two of them would be doing backflips if they were able to.

The airplanes were unwrapped with a wow. After the under the tree presents, Noah was introduced to the Aéroport d’amour. This airport was handmade with boxes, construction paper and a red flashing safety button that was clipped on to the control tower. Mé and Stéphanies’s two runway creation was a smash hit. About a week after Christmas Noah outs with, “Santa Claus has children, papa.” I didn’t quite understand at first and asked him to repeat. “Papa,” he said, “I know Santa has kids because there were some on the box.” The main terminal of Aéroport d’amour was a diaper box in a former life!

The tree is gone. The lights are coming down. Pre-school is back. The holidays are fading. Already, Noah is counting down the days to our trip to Sorel – the original home of the Christmas tree in North America – and winter carnival fantasia.

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