I could not believe what I was seeing. Everybody in the 4×4 was absolutely frozen in total disbelief of the situation unfolding. Looking through the little glass window into the front cabin, I saw my moms face…her huge brown eyes looking like a deer caught in headlights. Her friend Marion seated next to her spontaneously burst into tears. Our next door neighbor Andy who had so enthusiastically volunteered to help us that day, leaped off the back of the 4×4 and ran headlong into the bushes as fast as his cowardly legs could carry him. I think I was around 8 years old at the time and despite my age I have to embarrassingly enough admit that due to the gravity of what was taking place, my bladder decided to give in on me as I soaked myself completely. Someone started screaming although I don’t recall who it was, while one of our friends who was on the back of the 4×4 with us conspicuously threw himself on top of the tree to try and cover up our crime. Thinking about it afterwards, I couldn’t stop laughing about that one small action taken in desperation because as he landed on the tree you could clearly hear some of the branches snapping and rustling. It would’ve taken a totally deaf person to not hear that. My aunt reluctantly rolled down the window as the policeman arrived at our vehicle and proceeded with his interrogation.
As the situation was unfolding, there was a tone in this policeman’s voice that was vaguely familiar to me although I just couldn’t put my finger on it. As far as I’m concerned there is a discrepancy to this day between who realized first what was actually going on here. My sister Karen claims the prize while my aunt says she recognized his hands first before anybody else. My aunt leaped out of the 4×4 as she suddenly recognized that it was in fact my uncle who was playing a practical joke on us. At first she was not impressed…standing in the middle of the main road really letting him have it for all she was worth, while he hysterically laughed like a Hyena. Once everybody had calmed down, we then had the task if having to track Andy down. After a few minutes he sheepishly appeared through the bushes and upon hearing that it was all just a joke, was seriously hanging his head in shame. With his tail between his legs, he climbed back onto the 4×4.
Now it all made sense to us as to why he had so slyly bowed out of helping us that year. He had been plotting against us for several days, arranging a policeman’s uniform through a friend of his at the police department, saying that he needed it for a fancy dress that they were attending.
Arriving home, unloading the tree and hauling it into the sitting room I was never so glad to be back on home turf. After my change of underwear and much teasing from everybody else, we continued the task of decorating it. Adorning the tree with baubles and tinsel that year somehow seemed a much more special occasion.
I’m not sure how the whole tradition of getting a Christmas tree like this started in our family. Karen would probably be more clear on that and I’ll let you know, but the stunt my uncle pulled on us that year didn’t stop us. We continued for many years after that to enjoy the excitement and camaraderie that came with banding together against the rest of the world in getting our grubby little paws on our tree, which always stood proudly in our sitting room bursting with character. It was always a tree that was so much more appreciated than anybody else’s because of the effort we’d gone to, to get it in the first place. And just in case you’re wondering, I have never been able to live down the fact that I wet my pants that day!