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A Rocky Mountain Christmas


© 2008 Ann Carol Ulrich. All Rights Reserved.


OWEN SAT IN THE STUDENT UNION where Tory had agreed to meet him after her class. He opened his soc' book, oblivious to the hustle-bustle of student activity. Nearby two student workers decorated a large evergreen tree. They had already strung lights on the long-needled pine, and a girl stood on a stool while her helper handed her ornaments. It was then that Owen noticed that "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" was
playing in the background.

Another Christmas season, he realized, was upon them. How he hated this time of year, all the damn fuss, all the stupid excitement, all of the phony sparkle and glitter of garlands, of annoying jingle bells, of ridiculous snowmen, bug-eyed reindeer and silly Santa Clauses.

It seemed everywhere you looked there were Christmas decorations, on campus or downtown. The stores had transformed into overpopulated mazes where people bumped into each other and long lines were the rule. Clerks, looking drained and overworked, couldn't help being rude, and little kids bawled because their parents wouldn't buy some silly trinket.

Owen looked at the tree and thought it a shame so many fine trees had to be murdered each year -- just so families could erect them in their houses for a week or two, only to discard them on New Year's Day as if they were rubbish.

He had been 3 or 4 when he had waded through snow up to his tiny waist. Bundled in a red snowsuit, boots and mittens too big for his hands, he followed his mom and dad up a tree-covered slope off the road. Dad carried the ax and Mom laughed as Owen flailed about in the ocean of whiteness, purposely falling because it was soft and he liked the crisp wetness. His memory of Dad cutting that first Christmas tree was as if it had happened last week.

And each year after that, the family made a tradition out of getting the tree and taking it home for Christmas. He recalled the presents stacked high around it on Christmas morning and the colored, blinking lights each night as he'd lie on the carpet next to the fire, studying the shiny wrapped gifts. Then Mom taking him to his bed and reading delightful stories about reindeer and elves and shoemakers and sugarplum fairies. The coziness of it all warmed him for a second or two.

Then, suddenly, he caught himself. With a slight jerk, Owen returned to his book. Now "We Three Kings" was playing. He wished they'd put on some Amorphis or Deceased. He was starting to get depressed. Christmas treason. What a joke it was. Each year it seemed to get a little worse.

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