This year I thought I would wish all the children who follow my site a Happy Christmas with the gift of a story. (I have actually recorded this story but wordpress want more money for me to upload the recording.) If you’d like a copy of the recording send me an email. I hope you enjoy it and wish you a happy, safe, socially distanced, hand sanitised, Christmas.
The Tamarisk Tree by Penny Luker
She stood tall and proud in a dry sandy area; not quite a desert. A small community of houses surrounded her.
Jacob loved her beauty. She provided shade during the hot months and a focus for the local people, who would often sit beneath her branches. There was not much for an eleven year old to do, so he would pick up any small twigs that she dropped and whittle away at them with his knife.
‘Thank you for your gift,’ he would always say, as he sat beneath her branches, practising his craft. He made tiny statues of people who lived nearby or characters he’d read about in books. In his way Jacob was content, although he would’ve liked more children to play with.
Matthew was a young teenager, who lived in the same village. He was angry at being stuck in what he considered to be this hell hole. The heat was oppressive. There was nothing to do and no-one of his age to hang out with. His parents worked at the observatory in the desert and he was often on his own. He watched Jacob sitting under the tree and sneered at his efforts.
‘I’ll show you how to carve something properly. I’ll be back but you’ll have to move.’
A few moments later Matthew came back with a saw and told Jacob to get out of the way.
‘You mustn’t damage the tree,’ said Jacob. ‘She provides us with shade and beauty.’
‘She provides us with shade and beauty,’ Matthew mimicked. ‘Move!’
Jacob stood back, helpless. Matthew was much bigger than he was.
He ran to his home to fetch his mother, but she was busy and told him to keep out of the way of that nasty boy.
When Jacob got back to the tree one of its beautiful branches was on the ground and Matthew was about to chop another.
‘Wait. Why not carve the branch you’ve cut before you take more from the tree? That is, if you can actually carve and not just hack branches off,’ shouted Jacob from a safe distance.
‘Of course I can carve. I’ll show you,’ and Matthew marched off in the direction of his home, with the large branch.
Jacob ran to the tree and wrapped his spindly arms around the trunk.
‘I’m so sorry I didn’t protect you,’ he cried.
He went indoors and came back to the tree with a small jar of honey and spooned a little onto the cut on the tree.
‘I don’t know if this will help but my mother always gives me some when I’m poorly,’ he said.
When Jacob’s mother came out to see what the fuss was about she was extremely angry that the tree had been mutilated and marched straight round to Matthew’s house. There she found him sweating and swearing at the wood as he tried to shape it into a statue with a large blunt knife. She left him in no doubt that she’d be speaking to his parents tonight.
Jacob sat back down under the Tamarisk tree and fell asleep in it’s shade. Soon he was wakened by Matthew.
‘I’m going to be in dead trouble with my parents because of your mother. You better make this branch into something beautiful so they think my cutting the tree was not such a bad thing. Here. Get on with it or you’re dead meat.’
‘I couldn’t do it even if I wanted to. Such a large branch would take months to carve. With my tiny pieces of wood it takes a few weeks. I’d be happy to show you how to carve a small piece, but only with wood that the tree offers you; the bits you can pick up from the ground.’
Matthew stomped off, dragging the branch behind him.
Later Jacob said to the tree, ‘I am sorry that he’s hurt you so much,’ as he went indoors for his supper.
In the morning he was outside with his mother, when he looked up and saw his beloved Tamarisk tree covered in pale orangey- pink flowers.
‘Look how beautiful the tree is!’ said Jacob. ‘I thought it might die with that damage.’
‘No, she is strong. I’m sure she’s going to be fine. Matthew might have hurt her but someone showed her kindness – with my best honey, I believe.’
Jacob looked up but his mother was smiling.
As for Matthew, his parents were indeed cross with him. They gave him the perfect punishment. He must carve a statue of the Madonna and child and work on it everyday until it is beautiful, when it will be donated to the village. He has promised he will never damage the tree again and can often be seen sitting with Jacob underneath the Tamarisk tree, learning his craft.