I reached into the fragrant green tree and hooked a mirror ornament onto a branch. Then I stood back to see how my addition looked. It was perfect! An hour before, my brother had authoritatively deemed that since I was ALMOST ten-years-old, I could help trim our Christmas tree. My cheeks hurt from smiling, but I couldn’t stop. I felt so happy. After weeks of waiting Christmas was finally here…and this year I could enjoy it with special privileges.
My smile widened as I thought about how we had transformed this scraggly, sorry-looking swamp balsam into a radiant, shimmering work of art! Rubbing dirty, balsam scented fingers over my aching cheeks, I took another step back to fully admire our tree. The ornament box stopped my backward movement. I tottered and nearly lost my balance. My brother asked, “What are you trying to do…break everything we didn’t use?”
Ignoring the clownish shrug and funny face I made at him, he announced, “We have enough ornaments on the tree. Now we can start putting on tinsel.” Grabbing a handful of the sparkling lead strands, I started to carefully drape them over the branches the way I’d seen him do it last year.
As we silently worked, Mom and two of my sisters decided to rearrange the room. A check over my left shoulder revealed their plan…moving the davenport to where the desk had been. They did the switch carefully, to keep from ruining the new wax job on our gray linoleum floor. I called out, “I sure hope you don’t end up wanting to move our tree!”
“Watch what you’re doing!” My brother’s sharp command brought my attention back to the job at hand. “Do you know what you did? You moved the tree stand! If you don’t watch out, you’ll tip the tree…like you did a few years ago!”
I resented being reminded of one of my past Christmas misdemeanors. Overhearing his comment, a sister came to the tree and asked, “What’s going on? Is Kathy trying to tip the tree…AGAIN?”
The smile on my face was gone. I hotly exclaimed, “You know darn well that MARY made me tip the tree!” Everyone in the room laughed. Feeling hot, tired, and grumpy, I started to toss clumps of tinsel onto the tree.
My brother scolded, “Hey! Stop that! That looks awful…put them on one at a time!”
When we sat down for our evening meal, my good humor had returned. Then the table talk returned to the subject of my tree-tipping incident. To change the subject I quickly blurted, “The living room got rearranged again this afternoon. I’m glad Mom didn’t want us to move the tree!”
A brother said, “Christmas trees can be moved. We did when we moved into THIS house.”
The old house that my family had lived in now served as a granary. It was dusty with the living room and kitchen filled with oats. I asked, “Why did you move AFTER the Christmas tree was up?”
Mom answered, “We were going to move before Christmas, but the varnish on all the woodwork wasn’t dry. We moved in two days after Christmas the year before you were born.”
I sat up and exclaimed, “You moved in on my birthday? I never knew that!”
“It wasn’t exactly your birthday…” Daddy drawled with a laugh “…at that time you were only a grain of salt in heaven and a twinkle in my eye!”
Everyone at the table laughed. I shrugged off his comment and asked, “How did you move the Christmas tree?”
One of my sisters said, “Daddy wrapped a sheet around it, put it over his shoulder and walked across the yard. Only ONE ornament broke!”
I was silent for a while thinking. The old house didn’t have a bathroom. What a change our nice, sturdy, modern house must have been! One of my brothers commented, “I remember carrying things over…like our radio.”
My other brother happily reminisced, “We had hamburger for our first supper in the new house.”
Mom ruefully laughed, “I didn’t know how to cook with my new electric range…we had a wood stove in the old house…so I accidentally burned the hamburgers!”
After supper I stood by the living room entrance looking at the Christmas tree that I had helped trim. Unconsciously, I ran my hand down the wall. My fingers stopped searching when they touched a slight, thumb-sized depression in the plaster. It was lower than I remembered. That meant I had grown some more.
This thumb-spot and I were old friends. I could remember when it was waist high. Leaning against the wall, I rubbed my finger back and forth over the old familiar spot and daydreamed. The house I grew up in and loved had come to life as a home exactly one year to the day before my birth. I smiled…that made us birthday buddies!