Trimming the Tree

December 15, 2012
Christmas time had come again, with all its comforts and joys. The music of bells filled the air, bright Christmas lights decorated all the houses, toys of all types crowded shop windows. It was the season of joy, goodwill, and peace to all men. But for my family, this year was different. It was the first Christmas we were celebrating without my father, who was overseas.

“Christmas will be so different without Father,” complained Andrew. “Who will put up the star?” Father always put the star on the top of the tree, after the tree was decorated. It was a tradition. The star was an important part of the Christmas story, showing the way to the stable, leading the Wise Men to the Christ Child, and because of that, it also played an important part in our family’s Christmas decorations.

Mother came in carrying a big box of ornaments. “Well, here is the last box,” she announced. We went over to the box and began taking out the familiar Christmas tree decorations: glass balls and shiny icicles and the lacy snowflakes I had crocheted with my grandmother. Each ornament had a story attached to it, making each and every one special. I smiled as I held up a somewhat crooked construction paper ball, my first attempt to make a Christmas tree decoration. After many hours and gallons of glue, I had finally succeeded. Since that, I had made many others, but I liked this first one the most.

I began to hang up some wooden ornaments that my father had made. Each year, he would make one for us, not telling us what the carving would be. It drove us crazy trying to figure out what he would make. He had made a reindeer, a wrapped present, a Christmas tree, a stocking, and a candy cane. The last one he had made was the candy cane. He had put it in my stocking, and at first, I thought it was real. I sighed; there would be no new carved ornament this year.

“Where are the mirrors?” I asked, looking around. “Oh, here they are.” I picked up the box of mirrors, holding them up to see them sparkle. They were my favorite. The tree always looked so pretty with the mirrors reflecting all the lights in the room. Especially when the tree lights were lit, the mirrors and the lights made the tree just seem to glow.

I grabbed the strings of popcorn that my sister Annelise had made, and began to wrap them around the tree. Andrew helped me with the higher branches. Around and around, the delicate string of popcorn curved like sea foam. Adding the cranberries made the tree look bright and festive. We were almost done.

Outside, I could hear the mail man come up with our mail. I went outside, hoping for a letter from Dad, but there was no letter. I brought in the mail and a small package that was on our front step. “Nothing,” I reported. I handed the package to Mother. She cut it open. A small wood carving and a letter fell onto her lap. I gasped. Rushing over, I picked up the ornament, staring speechless at it. Tears of joy were running down Mother’s face. “Andrew, Annelise,” I shouted, “it’s from Dad!”

I dragged a stool to our tree, climbed up on it, and carefully placed the ornament at the top. It was a star.

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