“Honey, I can’t find the snowman ornament. I looked through all of the boxes several times already.” Mom sat on a chair surrounded by open boxes and tins.
“What do you mean? There are several snowmen in those boxes.”
“Not just any snowman. The snowman you gave me for our first Christmas. It was our first ornament.”
“Oh. That snowman.”
“Yeah, sure.” Dad leaned down close to Junior as if telling him a secret. “It doesn’t matter where you put it, son. Your mom will just move it later.”
“That is not true! All I do is try to even out the ornaments. Just don’t put them all in the same area.”
“I won’t, mama. I put the last one on this branch over here.” Junior pointed to the limb next to the one he was currently decorating.
Jackson lay sprawled across the couch. “Can I go to my room?”
“No,” Dad spoke immediately. “You may be fifteen, but you’re still a part of this family. Decorating the tree is something we always do together.”
“Here, Jackson, why don’t you hang this ornament?” Mom held out a silver-colored bell.
“But mom! I always hang the bells.” Elizabeth looked with pleading eyes.
“Ok. Here, you hang the bell. I’ll get something else for Jackson.”
“She can hang them all. I’ll just watch, like dad does.”
“I don’t just watch. Didn’t you notice I am the one who has to put the lights on these stupid things.”
“Our tree’s not stupid!” Junior folded his arms.
“Daddy didn’t mean to call the tree stupid, dear. He was just pointing out how hard it was to put lights on it. Right, honey?”
“Uh. Yeah. Of course the tree is not stupid. It’s just a figure of speech.”
“A what?” Junior cocked his head
“It means your daddy said the wrong word.”
“No it…” Dad flailed his hands and went back to his chair.
“Here, Jackson, hang this gingerbread man.”
Jackson huffed as he pushed himself from the couch. “A gingerbread man? Why do we have a gingerbread man on our Christmas tree? Is he secretly one of Santa’s elves or something? Or maybe he’s one of the cookies Santa eats on Christmas Eve?”
“Santa’s not going to eat the gingerbread man, Jackson!” Elizabeth called out as she placed another ornament on the tree.
Junior pulled a clear, crystal bell from the box. “Can I hang this one?”
“Don’t touch those, sweetie. That is the breakable box.”
“Hey! Give me that! I hang the bells.” Elizabeth lunged toward Junior.
“Get off me!” Jackson shoved her as she bumped him.
“I had it first!” Junior turned toward the tree.
Pushing and fussing, the three siblings crashed into the base of the tree. Mom watched as the crystal bell flew out of the chaos and smashed into pieces against the fireplace.
At the start of the fight, Dad had tried to jump up quickly but only managed to flip backwards off the recliner. Landing with a thud, he watched as the tree toppled on the fighting trio below.
“Get off me!”
“Look what you’ve done!”
“Children!” The room grew silent at dad’s outburst. Silent, except for a faint whimpering from Junior.
The children each poked their heads out from under the tree, dreading the look they were going to get from mom. Surprisingly, mom had moved around to the other side of the tree – the side that had been against the wall – and was examining it closely. They could all see tears on her face.
“Look,” she said as she pulled an ornament off the tree. “Here’s the snowman ornament. Our first ornament.”
The children all glanced at Dad, who was staring at mom from his spot on the floor.
Mom took the ornament and placed it back on the tree. “Who wants some hot chocolate and cookies while Daddy fixes the tree?”
“I do!” The children said, almost in unison. Junior climbed out from under the tree and hugged mom’s leg.
“Well, go help him up off the floor and then meet me in the kitchen.”