Monday, December 19, 2011

The Secret of the Tree - A Memory of Christmas

On December 20, 2010 I shared this memory. With Christmas week upon us, I was again reminded of the secret of the tree...

I have never, ever, been a good sleeper. Even when young I slept very lightly and would awaken in the silent, early morning hours, my mind busy with my own version of instant replay. Sometimes I’d tiptoe out of the bedroom I shared with my sister to curl up on the couch and enjoy a few rare hours of privacy and quiet. If it was close to Christmas I would plug in the tree lights and that gentle, multi-colored glow illuminated my thoughts.

When I was nine or ten years old I was awake but warm in bed when I heard a scrape and muffled thud. I slipped out from beneath the blanket and met my mom in the hallway. Together, we peeked into the living room. The Christmas tree had tipped over and ornaments now decorated the carpet. The two of us quietly pushed the tree straight, tightened the screws that pressed into the tree trunk to hold it upright, and used a couple of dishtowels to sop up the water that had spilled from the stand. My dad, three brothers, and sister slept on.

The silver angel atop the tree tilted drunkenly to one side as she supervised our efforts. She’d been pulled sideways by the fall and the weight of her power cord. Mom carefully straightened our cherished tree topper as I scampered behind the tree to plug in the cord. Haloed now by faint blue, the angel smiled down at us, her heart glowing.

That angel is with us still though a hole now pierces her bodice, the heat from the bulb having melted through the old plastic decades ago. So the angel has retired. Each year she briefly supervises my sister’s decoration efforts when fragile old ornaments are unwrapped and admired, reminding us of our youth, of our mother taken from us, too young. The angel’s smile is as sweet as my memories demand, yet it was long ago that she plummeted to the carpet and long ago that my mom died. My tears, though, are as fresh as the day we lost her and the hole in my heart is as real as the angel’s. It shall never mend.

And now, with the holiday season upon us, I thought I would share the secret of the tree, of that long-ago adventure I shared with my mom. In a few days I’ll visit my darling sister. We’ll hug and weep a little and our love will take flight as we cherish the memory of our mom’s gentle smile, now the smile of an angel.

by Janet Fogg


Patricia Stoltey said...

This bittersweet post reminds me of the wonderful years when I was young and Christmas was a month-long mix-up of board games and Christmas cards and gift wrapping and lots of kids. My dad was the one who kept it going and passed the same excitement on to his grandkids. After he died in 1982, Christmas was never really the same for any of us.

Anonymous said...


What a wonderful story. You have a marvelous gift with you writings. Brought smiles & tears. Made me remember special memories of Christmas pasts. Thank you so much. Char

Janet Fogg said...

Pat and Char, it sounds as if we were all blessed with special parents. The holidays are indeed bittersweet in that regard, though I hope more sweet than bitter as we create new memories for our families and friends.


Giles Hash said...

Such a great memory! It's always a mixed blessing when wonderful memories are all that's left of those we love. They make us miss them so much more, but the also help us to cherish the time we had.