Column: Flash of silver in a tree starts lifelong Christmas mystery

Column: Flash of silver in a tree starts lifelong Christmas mystery

Great Outdoors by James Murray

James Murray

Contributor

A cold winter wind was blowing outside.

It was early Christmas eve morning, 50 years ago this year. I was sitting at the kitchen table, looking out the window – at nothing in particular – alone with my thoughts I guess and glad I was warm indoors. The snow was drifting in the wind. Our whole backyard and beyond looked like a snow-white Arabian desert. The fence posts barely poked above the snow.

At first I thought it was a single leaf, still clinging onto a branch of the crabapple tree that grew in the backyard. Then I saw the flash of silver. As I looked harder, I saw it was a small silver angel shape, tied to a branch by a loop of string. I recognized it right away. It was one of my mother’s tin cookie cutters that she kept in a box in the drawer under the stove. I watched it swinging about in the wind for the longest time.

Who had put it out there, and when?

Later that day, when my father sent me to the store, I went outside and walked up to the tree to get a closer look at the cookie-cutter angel hanging there all by itself. The snow had drifted in a curve around one side of the tree. It was hard beneath my feet – enough to support my weight without breaking through. Whoever had placed it there had to have been light enough to not break through the snow, and short enough that they had tied it to one of the lower branches. But who?

Over the next few days I watched to see if anyone in my family was looking out the window at the angel in the tree. No one that I noticed. A few days after Christmas, the angel was gone. There were no footprints in the snow. Perhaps it had blown off and been buried.

One day the following spring, when the snow was gone, the grass was beginning to grow and the flowers were starting to come up, I thought about the angel. I looked around on the ground, on my hands and knees, but found nothing. Maybe a crow or magpie has absconded with it and it now sat in a place of honour in its nest. What might a baby magpie think of a tin angel?

Read more: B.C. couple opens their Harry Potter-themed Christmas house to the public

Read more: Salmon Arm family cooking up Christmas community dinner

Read more: Salmon Arm’s Vail Village a winter wonderland in miniature

Over the year, that cookie-cutter angel crossed my mind a few times. More than once, when I’d seen someone’s Christmas tree set out with the garbage after Christmas, with bits of tinsel still hanging from the branches, I thought about the tin angel. The way it first caught my eye – just a small flash of silver – so many years ago.

I’ve always been sort of a sappy Christmas kind of person. I set up a tree every year in my front room. I’ve also collected Christmas ornaments for the past 50 years, too. I guess they sort of remind me of Christmases long ago when we were kids. The other night I turned the tree lights on and the room lights off. The animals (two dogs and two cats) were quite impressed. So was I. The tree really did look spectacular with all the old ornaments.

A few days before Christmas, I drove my younger sister to Chase so that we could drop off some Christmas presents for my older brother and his family. Before we got to his house, my sister asked if I would take her up to the cemetery to leave a sprig of cedar bows for our parents. While I was sitting in the vehicle waiting for her, I watched her in the rear-view mirror. I watched as she slipped something from her pocket. It was a small and silver, wrapped in Kleenex. I watched as she hung it on a branch of a nearby tree. She stood looking at it for a moment, then took it down and slipped it back into her pocket.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Armstrong Regional Co-op board members Brett Kirkpatrick (left) and Robbie Hoyte (right) flank Scott John of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society. The co-op donated $2,500 to the society for its Save the Towne Theatre campaign. (ARC photo)
North Okanagan-Shuswap cooperative contributes to Vernon theatre campaign

Armstrong Regional Co-op kicks in $2,500 for Okanagan Screen Arts Society’s Save the Towne Theatre campaign

Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery, scholarship for rescue at Sicamous beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

A young Sicamous Canada Day parade-goer is awed by a colourful float filled with beloved Disney characters during the July 1, 2020 community event. (File photo)
Editorial: Now is the time for Sicamous to shine

Shuswap community might be just what people who work from home are looking for

Greyhound Canada announced May 13 it was closing operations permanently after more than a century of operation. (Black Press file photo)
COLUMN: Goodbye to a never forgotten friend

Greyhound bus trips played a big role in columnist’s life

Someone or something is vandalizing birdhouses built and erected along Salmon Arm’s Foreshore Trail, much to the chagrin of a Shuswap biologist who looks after the houses. All but one of 32 along the trail are occupied. (Facebook photo)
Ongoing birdhouse vandalism rocks Shuswap trail, groups

Eight more boxes were destroyed Saturday, May 15

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

File photo (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Overturned kayak in Kelowna creek prompts police response

Kelowna RCMP is looking to speak with anyone who may know the individual associated with the kayak

Penticton city parks staff were busy this week using the beach grater to sift through sand, getting the shores ready for beach season. When it comes to beach clean up they are collecting run-off debris, pulling weeds and picking up litter. (Penticton photo)
Hottest day of the year, so far, in the South Okanagan

Penticton city park staff cleaned up the beaches getting ready for the season

This is what the glowing boulders look like at night at 28 Huth Ave. (Submitted)
PHOTOS: Glowing boulders popping up in the Okanagan

Local landscaper Brandon Messier also brought the Lost statue to its new home

Coldstream Fire Department is on-scene Sunday, May 16, battling a fire in a Matner Lane orchard just up the hill from the firehall on Aberdeen Road. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Okanagan fire crew tackles orchard blaze

Fire broke out just before 2 p.m. on Matner Lane, which is just up the hill from the Coldstream firehall on Aberdeen Road

A drug bust on Government Street in Duncan on Tuesday, March 30, led to a "substantial seizure" according to the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP. (File photo)
Search continues for diver who went missing in Okanagan Lake

Emergency crews continue to search for the 52-year-old who didn’t resurface Saturday

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

Most Read