Tuesday, December 22, 2009
A Christmas Story
I was in the fourth grade when my father got the idea of putting a 12 foot aluminum Christmas tree on top his ham radio tower. My sister Lynie and I were wild with delight. "Yeah, Dad, do it, do it! Please. We'll help. It will be so-o-o neat. " My mother rolled her eyes.
Every day after school we would come home to find my dad working on Project Christmas Tree. My mother called it Project Stupidity. Lynie and I helped by putting the aluminum branches into the silver painted trunk. Spurred on by our enthusiasm for the project, Dad also decided to put a motor on the tree so that it would spin around. Then, in a moment of true genius, he installed two floodlights so that it could be seen at night.
At last the moment came to crank the tree up into the sky. "Wait," Lynie said. My dad and I looked at her expectantly. I was expecting something dopey to come out of her second grade mouth. "Ornaments," she said.
"Ornaments!" I yelled running back to the house. I knew just where my mother put those boxes of new red glass balls.
Nobody spoke as we reverently hung the balls all over the tree. I hung up the last ornament. "It's beautiful," Lynie said in whisper. She was right again. It was prettier, more wonderful, more fantastic than any tree I'd ever seen. It was alive--it shivered as the wind blew through it's aluminum needles. Finally my dad cranked it up, up into the sky.
"We have to get some distance," my dad said. "It's like looking up a flagpole at flag. You can't really see it. Let's go over to the Gemco parking lot after dinner and look at it from there." Gemco was about half a mile away as the crow flies.
I could hardly eat dinner I was so excited. My mom didn't want to come to Gemco with us--she was mad that we took her new Christmas ornaments. Lynie and I covered our eyes the way to the parking lot. We didn't want to spoil it. We got out of our Dad's van and there--up in the sky--there was the silver tree. It looked like it was floating. It was magical.
You couldn't really see the Christmas balls, but you could tell it was spinning round and round like the ballerina in my jewelry box. It was so beautiful I started crying, but managed to croak out, "Project Christmas Tree is a success!"
But not for long. Two nights after Christmas, we had a terrible storm. It rained heavily and a gale force wind came up.
The next day, and for several weeks afterward, people, known and unknown, came to our door. Usually they would hold out one of the aluminum branches and ask, "Is this yours?"
My mother would thank them, take the branch, close the door and then mutter "Stupidity!" under her breath. All the branches blew off except for two. All the ornaments were missing except for one. And that one my dad broke when he took down what was left of the tree.
Lynie and I didn't talk about it. That is, until Easter vacation when a strange man rang our doorbell. He said he lived over by Gemco. He carefully reached into the brown paper bag he was holding. "Is this yours?" he asked. He was holding one of the Christmas tree's red glass balls. But now it was actually pink. "I came across this in my garden," he said smiling.
Lynie gasped. "The Christmas ornament that turned into an Easter egg," she said. "It's a miracle." My mother thanked him, took the ornament, shut the door and didn't say a word.