Today is a happy day. Why? Because I got my computer back. I’ve been having to let Donn borrow it because his died, and it hasn’t been pretty. We learned a few years ago that we really can’t share a computer without lots of good opportunities to practice maturity and unselfishness in front of the children, and you know how stressful that gets.

I feel all relaxed and happy now, and like I’ve got things to tell you. To begin, the story of How We Got Our Christmas Tree, or sapin de noel as we like to call it.

It started last year, when I went to choir practice at Connie’s house and there were Christmas trees in a small truck outside. She has lived here something like 20 years, and she told me the tale of Ahmed the Tree Guy, who lives somewhere out in the country and every year just shows up at their house with a tree or two. Last year, Ahmed left them 4 trees to choose from and never came back, so they just gave us one. This year, she gave me his phone number.

In an exciting twist, it turned out not to be Ahmed’s phone number, but his brother Sayid. Sayid’s French was minimal. I explained who I was, that I was a friend of Connie’s, but that I was a different American woman. He said he was at work and asked me to call back that evening. I did, but Ahmed was not in. Could I try back later? I did, but he was still not there.

This went on for 3 nights.

On Saturday, I talked to Sayid again. He was at work, but he noted down my address and promised that Ahmed would come to my house on Sunday afternoon.

Two minutes later, Connie’s husband called me. Ahmed the Tree Guy was at their house with a tree for me! He offered to bring him over, so we rushed outside. Soon Ahmed arrived with a six-foot tree stuffed into the back of a petit taxi, a tiny blue Fiat. He pulled it out and the bargaining started, but I was already sold on it. A tree!

We brought it up and laid it on the floor. We were immediately confronted with our lack of a tree stand. Elliot was baking chocolate chip cookies. We also had the Christmas concert in a few hours. I was singing in the choir, the twins were doing readings in French, and Elliot was playing drums for “Calypso Carol.” Donn and Abel took the car and went out to the Potteries to find a pot. Ilsa and I continued our attempt to dress her in an outfit that we could both live with. She’s going through her sloppy wear-her-brothers’-clothes stage. I’m going through my turn-into-my-mother-after-all stage. Her idea of appropriate Christmas concert attire: jeans and old (red!) tshirt of Elliot’s with a football on it. My idea: skirt, tights, boots. We compromised, but it took time.

In the meantime, Donn returned with a lovely pot and a bucket full of dirt. Lovely dirt, yes. We stuck the tree in, packed dirt around it, and stood it in a corner. Beautiful! Well, to be honest, it looked rather like what it is—a scraggly cedar bush,  but green and needly at least. Then we changed and rushed off, bearing still-warm cookies, to the concert. The choir marched in by candlelight to “Dona Nobis Pacem” (give us peace), a medieval round. Ilsa read a long passage without, apparently, breathing. Elliot was fantastic on the song he was supposed to accompany, and improvised wildly on a congregational carol, just because he could. I don’t think anyone really noticed. All was well.

In the evening, I made homemade chwarmas and of course hot chocolate. It is pretty much required that you make hot chocolate when decorating a tree, even though I didn’t have any, since I don’t like sweet hot drinks. It was pretty awesome to have our own decorations again, after two Christmases without them. We hung the Doulton china snowman, and the ornaments we bought in France, and the paint-your-own-china that the twins did at the age of 18 months. (Abel’s is black and Ilsa’s is a delicate violet. You can’t tell me there aren’t innate differences!) There’s a train round the base, and hula-girl lights in the window. Our Mauritanian angel is on top, made by a sewing cooperative of women who live without electricity or running water.

On Sunday afternoon Ahmed the Tree Guy showed up again, as Sayid and I had arranged. It’s good to know he’s getting his messages.

Ismail was there when Ahmed came, so afterwards Donn invited him up to see the tree. He admired the decorations, suggested we get lights that blink. We explained our lights do blink, just give them a minute. (The only lights we’ve found here are multi-coloured and blink) He liked the train.

He asked us how much we paid, and shook his head and tut-tutted when we told him. It was far too much. Never mind that we paid only one-third of what they are asking at the nursery across from LaBelVie. Never mind that it’s twice the size, less spindly, and still cost less than the fake trees they have at Marjane this year.  Never mind that he’s never bought a Christmas tree in his life and couldn’t be expected to know what they cost. In my experience, Moroccans love to ask you what you paid for things, and then tell you that you paid too much. It’s fun and relaxing for them.

He said we got a good price on the dirt though. So that’s a relief.
I’ll post pics tomorrow–in the evenings the connection is often pretty bad and I can’t get them to load.

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