Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It Came Upon a Twilight Clear

By Patsy O’Shea

I have always admired and coveted those beautifully decorated Christmas trees that are in department stores and magazines. The decorations on them are so in sync with their individualized colors and themes. If there are classes on tree decorating or a how-to manual, I haven’t attended the class or read the book.

You see, if I were to describe to you the decorations on my annual Christmas tree, in comparison to those in a department stores, it would be called “Hand-Me Down” There’s no particular color or theme carried throughout my tree.

Most ornaments placed on our tree were given to us as an expression of love. Baby’s First Christmas ornaments, those from cherished girl friends, and ornaments our children made in school as gifts to mom and dad. Then, there are ornaments from friends who have moved far away, but left lasting impressions on our hearts and lives. Each year when I bring out the box of decorations, I sit and reminisce over each ornament and the one who gave it.

But there is one particular ornament that brings tears to my eyes every year. It too has become a part of my special tree ornament collection. It arrived one snowy evening many years ago.

With only one week away until Christmas, my two elementary aged children and I were working furiously in the kitchen making our Christmas cookies. The room could only be described, and remembered by a mother, as a Norman Rockwell moment.

My young children’s faces and hair were dusted with flour. Their little hands and lips showed signs of licks from colored frosting and stuck on sprinkles. Our counters and table held a variety of bowls of cookie dough, and plastic Christmas cutters. Cups of hot chocolate overflowed with mounds of marshmallows. The room itself was filled with Christmas music and the aroma of fresh baked cookies.

During these very nostalgic moments, my door bell rang. I quickly wiped my hands on my apron and I rushed to answer it. As the light went on, I looked down, and to my surprise stood a small little boy. He was holding a flat white box.

The light revealed a worn coat and hat that wouldn’t have been warm enough on that cold, snowy night. As I opened the outer storm door, my eye caught a glimpse of an older model station wagon parked next to our street curb, with its lights dimmed and motor running.

We greeted each other, but before telling me his reason for being there he opened the lid of his box. Inside, on top of white tissue paper, laid neatly placed handmade clear plastic beaded ornaments. They were in the shape of Christmas wreaths. Each one had a red velvet ribbon tied at the bottom. Some were larger than others. Some were all green, while others were crystal clear. Each had a small price tag stuck on it. The smaller ones were $1, the medium were $3, and there was one in the middle. It was the largest and it was $5.

When the boy spoke, he told me that his mother had made each one, and they were selling them to make money to buy Christmas presents. He then pointed to the big one in the middle and said, “This one is the prettiest.”

I was flooded with mixed emotions. I wanted to pick him up and hug him. I wanted to invite him in for cookies and hot chocolate. But, I thought what I really needed to do at that very moment was to show respect that was due and treat his visit to my home as a normal business transaction. For all I knew, this may have been their only means of buying gifts that year.

I agreed to make a purchase. While leaving the door to get money, I noticed the boy turning back to look at the car. Perhaps it was a gesture to say a sale had been made.

Unfortunately, the only cash on hand was a $10 bill. I wanted to buy every one of the ornaments; however I knew a check wouldn’t do. Returning to the door, I made my selections very carefully to equal the money I had. To his delight, I included the prettiest one in the middle.

Each year as I put my tree up and place all my love ornaments, I proudly display the hand made beaded wreaths. I make sure the prettiest one from the middle has a special spot on the tree. All the while, I remember with tears the little boy at the door who came proudly to my home selling his mother’s very special ornaments. This little family brought the true gift of love to my home.