( a collection of independent vignettes)
The tree was taller than she was. Green as the forest in summer beyond her backyard and as prickly as the thorns on the dead bouquet in the vase on the counter. Tooth and nail it dragged through the back door leaving a trail of needles like gingerbread cookie crumbs right to the far corner of the living room. It did not come easy, but she didn’t back down. Not even as she had to hoist it into the stand with only minimal help from the wall.
A stepladder was necessary for the lights, and even though there was no one there to help she took her time. The stool danced around the wood floor and the lights were placed string by string until it was her feet waltzing around the ground instead. The cord was gently plugged in and then the house seemed a little brighter, the fir now lit up like a star. The tree warmed up to her a bit then. But only just a bit.
The red beads were next, and then the gold tinsel. The tree certainly wasn’t going to bend for her but she didn’t need it too. She rose to meet it again and again, and swayed around and around. The fire in the background crackled and snarled but it was only empty threats. The light emanating from the small space was too golden and too warming to be anything but a sarcastic friend. Being inside, the tree realized, was a lot different than being outside. A little more snug and a little less lonely.
It paid no mind to the silver bells she planted along its branches, and the red ornaments felt as light as air as if they were barely there. The rest that were piled on were mismatched and worn. A little blue sled with the year 1982 scribbled on the bottom, a fading snowman with two buttons missing, eight bronze deer then four gold ones and a rocking horse no bigger than her palm. Before long all the spaces were filled and instead of feeling weighted and tired the tree noticed the perk to its branches in the mirror across the room. Maybe it should have been a little nicer to her on the way in. She had plucked it out of the solitude of the harsh winter wind, gifted it a steady stream of water and shelter, then given it decorations to cloth and adorn it. The tree liked her a bit more than it had before, making its emotions swell now to twice what they had been.
A drop of sweat like a melted snowflake slid down her temple, and the tree could see she was tired. She absently moved to put her hand down on the end table nearby and the tree wanted to warn her but it had no mouth to speak.
When the glass shattered, it was loud. The wit of the fire was drowned, and the glow of white lights on the tree’s branches left her eyes. Quietly, the young woman bent down and as she kneeled careful of the broken bits, she looked much smaller than she had when she originally hauled the tree in. More like a girl, left alone in a house, with a few modest lights and threadbare ornaments that really didn’t matter much if one thought about it, unless they were reflected in her eyes.
The picture was face up on the floor, but in the shadow of where the lights couldn’t reach. Piece by piece and sliver by sliver she picked the edges up, cupping her hand to her chest. The picture, still in the frame, was last. Another tiny snowflake ran down her cheek, but the tree knew there were was no sky above their heads. She took a deep breath and in the next moment she rose and walked away. A minute passed, and then two. The tree wondered if maybe it should have at least tried to warn her, though it had no means to speak words. But then, she came back. And she wasn’t alone.
There was petite angel cupped in her hands where the glass had just been.
The stool made its return, and with the fire cackling quietly in the background, she rose one step then another. Even then though she could barely reach the top. An inch more of height and everything would have been okay. She didn’t have that inch though, so the tree gave her the inch instead.
With all its might it buckled its trunk and the young woman stretched her toes until finally then the angel was set on top. Blonde hair, white gown, a happy mouth and golden wings graced the room.
The young woman stepped down from the stool, and that’s when tree liked her most of all with the lights in her eyes, the fir needles in her hair and the angel in her smile.