Every year the members of Trinity Writers Workshop gather at the Stockyards on a Saturday in December and make our yearly contribution of Christmas cheer. This year we’ll be manning our table on Saturday, December 20, from 12:00 to 2:00. That’s this Saturday, folks. We’ll be handing out our annual Christmas books filled with stories and poems from our members, and we’ll be helping the little ones write letters to Santa, who is conveniently next to our table. It’s tons of fun, and there are lots of Christmas activities for the whole family, so come on out and visit us!
As a preview to the TWW Christmas book, I’m posting my story for this year. It was a lot of fun to write, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Merry Christmas!
It’s an Ornamental Life
“Ah, it feels good to stretch my leg again,” said the miniature woman’s leg wearing a fishnet stocking and a lampshade.
“S-s-speak for y-y-yourself,” said a bikini-clad flamingo through a chattering beak. “My feathers are tropical. They aren’t designed to keep me warm in the snow.”
“Your feathers aren’t real. They’re plastic,” snapped the picture of an eleven year old girl, her blond ponytail set stylishly to the side, her bell shaped frame made of white cardstock and embellished with glitter and the words Christmas 1987. “Besides, it doesn’t snow inside the house.”
“Ho ho ho!” laughed the Coca Cola bottle painted to look like an old-fashioned Santa. His illustrated hands patted his glass belly, but instead of jiggling, he sloshed. “Excuse me,” he bubbled, and an extra measure of pink appeared on his already rosy cheeks.
“Oh my,”said Sulu.
“It is not logical for you to feel cold,” said Spock, holding a pair of binoculars.
“It’s not about… logic… Spock. It’s about… feelings,” said Captain Kirk, his phaser perpetually pointing at some unseen, but imminent danger.
“Oh, like any of you know,” said the girl, rolling her eyes. “You’re Christmas decorations! Or haven’t you noticed?”
“Please, Melody, be kind,” said the white porcelain angel. Her body and wings were misshapen and spidered with shining yellow cracks where she had been badly broken and unskillfully glued back together. “This year is difficult enough without everyone bickering.”
“Oh, don’t get your shards in a twist,” grumbled the picture of Melody, but she said no more.
“Calm yourselves,” said the slow, deep voice of Tree. His branches settled a little lower, his plastic needles bristling and crinkling against each other. “Angel is right. We need to shine our brightest to support the family. This year will be hard for everyone, especially Gramps.” They all glanced at the new ornament on the front of the tree, a frosted glass vignette with the sleeping portrait of a gray-haired lady.
Just then, the family piled into the small, comfortable living room. Gramps held the smiling and cooing baby bundled in a blanket. Six other children from toddlers to teens milled around the room examining the presents and decorations while their parents looked on with nostalgic smiles.
“It’s not the same without Mom,” said Melody, now a grown up version of the girl in the picture. She gazed at the tree, which glimmered and gleamed before her. “I wish she was here to see this. The tree looks beautiful.” She sighed and put her fingers up to the golden angel pendant she always wore.
“I remember when she gave that to you,” said Gramps, walking up behind her and putting a hand on her shoulder. “You loved that angel ornament as much as she did, and you were so upset when you broke it. After you went to all that trouble of gluing it back together, she wanted you to have an angel of your own.” They rested their eyes on the porcelain angel and smiled, and its wings seemed just a little straighter than before. Melody wiped a tear from her eye.
“What about the time Mike took a bite out of the gingerbread man ornament?” asked Martin, grinning. He was nearing forty and the spitting image of his father, right down to the twinkle of mischief in his eye.
“Hey, I didn’t know it was salt dough,” said Mike. Everyone laughed.
“You found out real quick,” said Gramps. “The way you were carrying on, sputtering and spitting, we thought you were going to throw up all over the presents!” Gramps walked over to the couch and sat down next to Mike. “Your mom laughed so hard she cried, and that upset you all over again. You were so unhappy you made your mom cry that you started bawling.”
“You always were the sensitive one,” interjected Martin, lightly kicking his brother’s shoe. Mike rolled his eyes.
“Well, when you started crying, that made your mother cry for real. She thought you were the sweetest little thing to be so concerned about her feelings like that.” Gramps sighed, still smiling. “She was a good one, for sure, your mother. She put up with me for a long time.”
“Yeah,” said Mike. “Like the time you brought home…”
“The rainbow tree!” shouted a chorus of voices which broke into gales of laughter.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mom so angry with you, Dad,” said Melody.
“A rainbow tree? Cool! But why would that make Granny angry?” asked six-year-old Sarah, her brow furrowed. Then she smiled. “Was it sparkly?”
“It was,” said Melody, tweaking Sarah’s nose.
“You see, Sweetie, Granny sent Gramps out to buy a new tree a few days before Christmas,” said Martin. “But trees that close to Christmas are expensive, and Gramps is cheap.”
“Ahem. I am not cheap. I’m frugal, thank you very much,” said Gramps. He tried to look offended, but his smile crept through.
“Like I said, Gramps is cheap. Anyway, he found a nice big ten footer on clearance. Trouble was, it was super bright and had branches in about eight different neon colors, and Granny liked more, uh, traditional trees. But Gramps figured she would be so happy about the price tag that she would ignore the color, especially after he told her it couldn’t be returned.” Martin chuckled.
“What did Granny do?” asked Sarah, wide-eyed.
“She didn’t speak to me for two days! I thought it was going to be a silent Christmas,” said Gramps. They all laughed again.
“She also flat out refused to decorate it,” said Mike, grinning from ear to ear. “But finally, late on Christmas Eve, we kids begged her so much that she let us dig out the ornaments and put them on. But she still wouldn’t touch it.” He shook his head, still smiling. A happy, thoughtful silence filled the room.
“Gramps, are you going to read The Night Before Christmas?” asked Sarah after a minute. She climbed into his lap and hugged him.
“Not this year, Sweetheart.” Gramps smiled down at her sweet face and brushed a blond ringlet from her eyes. “I’ve done my years. It’s your daddy’s turn to make those memories.”
At his father’s words, Martin smiled and walked over to the bookcase. He lifted the book from the shelf as his father had done every year for as long as he could remember. He settled in his mother’s old wooden rocker and opened it up as the whole family, young and old, gathered around, brought together by the warm comfortable promise of sugar plums and reindeer. And then he began to read.
Behind Martin, the lights twinkled brighter than ever. The branches of Tree along with the angel, flamingos, Spock, Kirk, Sulu, Melody, and Coca Cola Santa sighed and swayed with a gentle, unseen breeze. And the new ornament at the front of the tree, the kind, smiling face of an old woman, gazed out upon her family and allowed a single pale, painted tear to glisten on her soft pink cheek.