the Tree

For Dodie

on her Ninety-Eighth Birthday

with so much love

I’m on the floor, lying on my side. My right arm is bent so that my head rests in my hand. Eventually my forearm will be covered with squiggly indentations because of the rug but I don’t care, and my left hand is twirling little pieces of the gold-colored, wall-to-wall, shag carpeting that I think is fancy compared to what we have at our house.

The rule is that we kids have to go around to the back door; no kids allowed in the living room. Except for this time of year. Then the rule changes…if we’re careful not to make a mess. These days, the living room is home to the most magical thing I’ve ever seen and I visit it as often as I can. The room is dark and quiet. It’s just me, lying there on the floor. I don’t know where my best friend is; maybe she’s in her bedroom in the back of the house, or maybe in the den, watching TV.

I came to see The Tree.

I came to see The Christmas Tree.

The Tree lives at 5253 Beeman Avenue, and I live at 5219 Beeman Avenue. There are five houses between my house and where the Tree lives. Sometimes I count them when I walk by.

At my house, we celebrate Chanukah and we are not allowed to have even the tiniest little bit of anything to do with Christmas. I don’t really know much about Chanukah or Christmas, besides that Chanukah means we get to light candles every night and I love watching the candles burn down and melt all over the place…but it is nothing compared to the Tree.

I want to have a Tree so bad, but my mother says, “NO. Absolutely not.” And my father says, “It’s up to your mother.” So I go down to 5253 Beeman Avenue to visit the Tree as often as I can. It’s hard, because I’m shy, but I do it anyway because the Tree is so beautiful.

I love this tree and when I sit with it I am in a world where there is no one else but me and the Tree.

I have so many favorite parts of the Tree, but the very most favorite part is the lights. They are what make everything else magical. They are clear glass and in the shape of little candles. When the electrical cord that goes to the lights is plugged in, the glass lights light up and they are beautiful, but slowly, real magic happens. As I lay there quietly looking at every single detail of the Tree, the little glass candles begin to bubble inside and I wonder if a fairy just waved her magic wand all around the tree. It is a wondrous mystery every time.

The Tree has long strands of silver tinsel and they shiver and shimmer when the heat starts to come out of the vent over by the hall doorway. The tinsel begins to dance and by then the lights are bubbling and I am in heaven.

Here’s another dream-come-true special thing about the Tree. On the ends of some of the branches there are striped candy-cane shaped CO O K I E S. They are red and white and my friend’s mother, Dodie, bakes them every year. And she bakes lots and lots of other kinds of Christmas cookies too. I know because sometimes I’m there when she opens up the cupboard where they’re stored: there are shelves filled with boxes and tins of all kinds of beautiful cookies. I have tasted some and they are so good. I hope I get to taste more. She bakes and bakes and bakes. I always wish I could help her but I go to school everyday and besides I would be so shy to ask her. My mother doesn’t bake cookies…or really anything else either. She thinks it’s amazing what Dodie bakes, too. I really want to learn about baking. But I’m not brave enough to ask.

There’s something else that wraps itself all around me when I’m lying there watching the tinsel dance and the candles bubble and the little reflections of light that bounce off of colored glass balls that hang on the branches. It happens as soon as I walk in; it’s the smell of the Tree. I breathe it in and out when I come and I know it’s the Tree saying hello to me.

Sometimes Dodie talks to me but sometimes she’s busy making dinner. She doesn’t mind that I come to see the Tree. I think she feels the same way I do about it, but she has so many things to do. Maybe later, when she’s finished with the dishes she gets to sit with the Tree.

When it’s time for me to go home for dinner I have to say goodbye to the Tree. Sometimes I take so long to say goodbye that my mother calls Dodie to find out where I am. Then I really have to run home fast. It’s dark outside and I’m a little bit scared. I walk down the two front steps then RUN all the way home. Sometimes I look behind me to see if anyone’s there. Usually there is and you know who it is? It’s Tiger, my cat.

He follows me down to 5253 Beeman Avenue and I don’t even know it. He waits for me in the bushes. As soon as I start to run like the wind Tiger jumps out of the bushes and gallops all the way home, right behind me. When I get to our house, with the porch light shining bright, Tiger runs into the bushes by the front door and then pounces on me, like I didn’t see him running all the way home behind me. His fur is a little puffed up and he jumps a little sideways. I pick him up and he wants to get down and run again when he hears the door open.

When I go inside sometimes I get in a little trouble because I stayed away so long. They don’t know that I was visiting the Tree. We light the candles and I love to watch them, but I can’t wait to go back down to 5253 Beeman Avenue tomorrow night to see the Tree again.

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8 thoughts on “the Tree

  1. Grace says:

    Memories or imagination? It’s the lights of the candles that will twinkle forever in your brain. Isn’t it fun?

    • These are memories! I spent the weekend in Portland with Dodie and her three daughters celebrating her birthday. I told her I was working on a story about their tree and she said, “Oh…I would L O V E to hear it!” It rolled around in my mind the whole way back from Portland and finally early this morning was ready to publish. It is a dear, dear memory.

  2. Buela Loretta says:

    i love the way you spread out the story like a beautiful blanket we will sit upon as watch that amazing tree…. thank you for the imagery and all the beauty and precious care you take with it.

  3. So sweet! Thank you for sharing this Lauren. Hoping that Dodie had a wonderful birthday!

  4. Pat Marsall says:

    Oh Lauren, it was wonderful being with you. And I loved your story and I saw that young girl lying on the floor quietly gazing at the tree and I smelled the delicious scent of the tree AND the cookies! Much love, Patty

    • It was so good to be with all of you. I have an ever deepening appreciation for time with family since mine has become so small. And if you can see that girl, you who lived with the Tree…then I know I’ve told the story well. much love…

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