The Life Tree
A Star Wars Christmas Story
Summary: A young Luke finds the holiday spirit.
The Life Tree
"I just don't understand that boy," Owen Lars told his wife.
He and Beru sat in the kitchen and watched as six-year-old Luke Skywalker strolled around the old, discarded weather vane. Luke had stuck the vane into the ground near the center water vaporator in the courtyard of their home and for some reason neither adult could determine, began hanging odd trinkets on it.
The boy took a string of running lights from the broken down old speeder Own had parked in back and strung it around the vane's arms in a cone-shaped pattern, ending at the very tip. Then he took pieces from an old wind chime that had fallen apart and started placing the singing crystals at random spots around the arms.
Next he strung old red yarn, metallic twine and other odds and ends, until by the time he was done the weather vane looked like some strange, droid-made coniferous tree.
Luke nodded in satisfaction, and then walked back into the garage to complete his chores.
"It obviously means something to him," Beru asked.
"You should go ask him," Owen said.
"Why don't you?"
Owen reached up and rubbed the dry, sunburned skin on the back of his neck. "I'll just end up shouting at the boy, and we both know it. Can't talk for ten minutes with him before he just shoots back some smart reply and I get to shouting."
Beru patted his arm. "Owen dear, I don't think he's trying to be smart to you. I think he's just smart. Look at his parents. We both know he wasn't meant for this life."
Owen's face set. "It's the best life he can hope for." He pushed himself up and walked up the stairs and out of the courtyard to begin his inspections.
That night as the first sun began setting, the family sat in the kitchen eating a thick stew when Beru finally broached the subject. "That's a very nice sculpture you made, Luke. What's it supposed to be?"
Luke's eyes took on an excited gleam. "It's a Life Tree."
Owen must have inhaled his soup; he started coughing so violently he almost dropped his spoon.
Beru hid her alarm. "Luke, Life Trees aren't allowed any more. It was part of a holiday that's been banned by the Empire."
"Holy Day, I know. Tomorrow is Holy Day, so this is Holy Day's Eve. I read in an old book that people would take a tree or something living like a tree and decorate it to celebrate the miracle of the Force. And that if you prayed hard enough, that the Force would grant you your wish."
"You don't even know what the Force is!" Owen snapped angrily, his voice still hoarse.
"I do too," Luke countered. His lip trembled. "The Force is a kind old man who wears brown robes and travels across the galaxy so fast he can visit all the planets on the same day, and he grants wishes to good boys and girls if they pray hard enough."
"Oh Sweetheart," Beru said, her heart breaking.
"Nonsense!" Owen suddenly bellowed. He erupted from his seat like a ship launching into orbit and stumbled angrily into the courtyard. Sensing what was about to happen, Luke jumped up and ran out after him. "Uncle, no!"
"Owen, please!" Beru called, but it was too late.
With an angry growl, Owen kicked the weathervane over, scattering the decorations across the courtyard. Luke's cry of anguish quickly turned into tears and sobs and he collapsed to his knees in the dirt and stared at the shattered decorations.
Owen spun around, his face still red. "There is no Force! There is no Holy Day. This is life, boy! We work hard, we get by until we grow old and die! There's nothing more than that! Stop your stupid dreaming! There is no Force!"
Still shaking, he stalked past Luke and then past Beru. She did not try to reach for him or even look as he walked by. She simply stood staring at the heartbroken boy she had come to call her son.
Beru woke with a start and quickly realized she was alone in their bed. She pulled the covers back, slipped on her robe and slippers to ward off the cold of a desert evening, and stepped through the house. When she came into the kitchen, she saw a figure silhouetted in the kitchen by a strange light coming from the courtyard.
She stepped to Owen's side and then sat down at the sight in the courtyard.
Luke had remade his tree. He had painted each of the running lights a different color, and with those lights the tree glowed with a strange assortment of blue, red and white glows. The singing crystals hummed gently in the slight evening breeze that reached down into the courtyard, while the metallic twine sparkled under the running lights.
Next to the tree, Luke sat on his knees with his hands held together in a strange gesture, his fingers near his chin. Beru realized with a start that it was a classically advertised Jedi meditation pose. She turned and looked at Owen's face, and stopped breathing when she realized a single tear had traced a glistening path down his already grizzled face.
In the courtyard, Beru was able to hear was Luke was saying.
"…he didn't mean it. He tries, I know he does. Please forgive him for being mean to me. It's usually my fault anyway. I know he loves me. And I love him too." He looked up at the tree. "And where ever my daddy is, please let him know I love him and I wish he were here. In Force's name. Amen." He bowed his head to the tree, and then leaned back.
Owen said nothing, and Beru didn't dare move for setting her husband off again. After a time, Luke simply laid down in the sand and fell asleep. Owen didn't move, though, even after that. It wasn't until the first moon was high in the sky that Owen finally stood and walked into the courtyard.
Very gently, he knelt down and lifted Luke in his arms. The boy murmured something about the Force. Owen simply held the boy to his chest and carried him back to his room. He left a trail of sand as the tiny particles fell from Luke's night clothes. Beru followed, wanting very much to hold them both.
Owen gently laid Luke in his bed and pulled the cover up, and then leaned over and kissed the boy's forehead while Beru watched from the doorway. He left the room and his wife followed, until they found themselves standing at the door of the kitchen, looking at Luke's Life Tree.
"Father never celebrated Holy Day," Owen said. His spoke so quietly his voice came out as a grinding sound.
Beru wrapped her arm around his waist. "I know. I spent so much time in your home that my parents barely missed me when I was gone."
Owen lowered his head. "I'm trying, Beru."
Her eyes sparkled with tears as she leaned her head against his shoulder. "I know. I love you."
He put an arm around her shoulder and hugged her tight. "Love you too." The two turned and walked back to their bed.
In a dark chamber in the middle of a gray-hued ship, a figure slumbered in isolation. His sleep was shallow and filled with painful memories. Memories of fire and death and a woman's tears as she backed away from him in terror.
The figure awake with a start and saw a vision before him—a vision a young boy in desert clothes staring up at him with painfully familiar blue eyes. At first he thought it was a memory, but then the boy in the vision spoke. "And where ever my daddy is, please let him know I love him and I wish he were here. In Force's name. Amen"
As quickly as it came, the vision faded. Darth Vader sat frozen with shock in his hyperbaric chamber for the longest time. The boy seemed so familiar, like a young version of himself.
Then it sank into him that this was a vision of what could have been. What should have been. The Force was taunting him with visions of what by all rights should have been his. His rage grew in the Force and the walls of his chamber started to groan, but then just as quickly the rage faded. The boy's eyes seemed to continue to look at him. Not judging, but aware.
"Very well," Vader his, his natural, helmet-less voice thin and reedy. "I will accept this vision as what it is. A taunt. Nothing more."
He closed his eyes, and tried to go back to sleep. Surprisingly, under the watching eyes of a vision of what should have been but never would be, Darth Vader slipped into a deep, restful, comforting sleep for the first time in six years.