Oh, wasn’t it grand to have a tree—
Exactly like Mr. Willowby?
My firstborn received Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree (by Robert Barry) from his best friend for Christmas 2001. I know this because their names are scrawled inside the front cover with the date. I probably could’ve narrowed it down to the right year, though. He was four, she was three. We read it countless times that Christmas — and for a few Christmases after, too.
Alas, he is now a senior in high school and she a junior, and I have not sat between them on the couch to read the story in a number of years (though it does still sound like fun). I very much remember how they loved it when they were little, however. They’d laugh at how tree after tree scrunched into the ceiling — their chubby fingers pointing to where the top of the tree would go next….
The story is one of sharing — inadvertent sharing at times, but sharing none-the-less. Mr. Willowby (who has a charming handlebar mustache) lives in a grand home and orders his very tall Christmas tree to be delivered by special delivery. When they stand it up in the spacious parlor window, the tree top touches the ceiling then bends like a bow.
“Oh, good heavens,” gasps Mr. Willowby. “Something must go!” So Baxter, the butler, chops off the top and carries it on a silver tray to Miss Adelaide, the upstairs maid. When she tries to stand it on a table in her modest living quarters, the same thing happens. So she snips off the top and throws it away. But Timm, the gardener, takes it home. He and Mrs. Timm love the tiny tree top, which is just the right size for their snug, small house — or will be once Mrs. Timm trims the top and throws it out the window….
On and on, the top of Mr. Willowby’s tree is shared — the Bear Family trims it, the Fox Family lops off the top, the Rabbit family chops it off and finally Mistletoe Mouse pulls the very tip-top branch or two through the snow and ice to his cozy house. And there, it is just the right size! They top it with a star of cheese and Christmas frivolity ensues. The last page shows Mr. Willowby asleep by his grand Christmas Tree and through the mousehole in the baseboards, we see a matching (though much smaller) tree with the Mistletoe Mouse family dancing around it.
I remember the day (reading 157?) my son asked why they chopped off the tree on the top vs. the bottom.
“So they could share,” his friend said.
“Oh!” said my son in a lightbulb moment.
And then they asked to read it again.
It remains one of my favorite Christmas books.