I wanted to help, but I could tell my attempts I made annoyed my brother Casper. He frowned at me when I tossed a strand of tinsel over one of the balsam boughs. Both ends of the heavy, lead tinsel strands did not hang down evenly, nor were they across from each other. That would not do! The job needed to be done perfectly. Regretfully, I knew I wasn’t able, nor did I have the patience.
Plopping down onto Mom’s rocking-chair footstool, I looked around at the living room. Our beautiful Christmas tree stood in the far corner. The ornaments were evenly spaced among the branches. Now Casper, the tinsel master, was neatly…so very, very neatly hanging uniform curtains of tinsel on each branch and twig.
All morning Mom had been cleaning the house. Along with the fragrance of the balsam tree, I could smell floor polish. Mixing delightfully with these scents were the aroma of sweet, spicy things baking in the oven. I sighed with satisfaction. Everything was perfect. Mom made me a brand-new flannel nightgown to wear tonight, plus I fully expected my annual Christmas doll would be wearing a matching one!
On the shiny gray linoleum floor in front of me was the Christmas tree trim box. Smaller empty boxes were scattered on the floor around the bigger one. Going through through the big box once a year was a Christmas treat as well as a history lesson. Mom never bought new ornaments, but she never threw any out, either.
When I was younger, I had always wanted to eat the chocolate, tin foil-covered Santa ornaments. Mom said they were too old to be eaten. I could not remember us ever hanging them on the tree, yet they stayed in the trim box. Year after year I fingered and admired their colorful red, white and black wrappers.
During the Great Depression years, Mom spent hard-earned money for exotic glass birds that had fiberglass tail-sprays. A few broke, but the rest we continued to use. A sweet wax lamb, my sister Agnes’ ornament, was hung each year.
And then there were the small metal musical instruments. The urge to blow into them was irresistible. This temptation caused a horrible disaster the year I turned six.
Only five years had passed since that mortifying experience. Why hadn’t I resisted the temptation to blow into one of the horns? That, I knew the answer to. They made funny, satisfying toot-toot sounds! The big question was, why hadn’t I let go of the ornament when my big sister jumped around the corner and shouted my name?? She should have known better being seven years older. I pulled tree over on top of myself. Would my family would ever stop calling me, ‘the tree tipper’?
I was spanked and sent to my bed. The one thing that upset me the most as I sat in my room crying, was the worry Mom wouldn’t put the tree back up again. The tree had only been up since the 24th of December and I’d tipped the tree on the 27th…my birthday.
I was left in my room alone for a long time while they cleaned up the mess. When I was allowed back into the living room, the tree I’d last seen laying on its side in a puddle of water with tangled tinsel and glass bulbs rolling away on the gray linoleum, was neat and perfect once again.
I knew that come late January when our tree was taken down, Mom or Casper would carefully remove the tinsel from the branches one by one and store them to be used again next year. That was a whole month away. Right now, Casper was slowly, methodically drawing strand after strand of tinsel off his arm and lovingly placing it on the tree. When he was done, I was sure that no one in the world would have a Christmas tree as pretty as ours.