This makes me very happy

ethelstree

 

It also makes me cry.

It’s a very simple thing. The little tree in the picture is more than 50 years old. How much more, I don’t know.

I just know that as a child, this little tree was always on the table or the shelf at Christmas time at my Aunt Ethel’s house. I wrote briefly about her earlier this year when I spoke of That Awful March of 1983.

We didn’t lose Aunt Ethel that March. But we lost one of her sisters and one of her brothers.

Ethel died on Christmas Day, 1983. A few days before, she had fallen. She was unable to reach any of us by phone, but managed to get the operator to connect to a neighbor across the street who flagged me down when I got in from work. I don’t know how long she’d been on the floor.

While she had lived alone for years with one of my aunts and uncles on one side and my family on the other, her health had been declining. We didn’t know how much. But she did.

After the fall, she agreed to go to the nursing home. Perhaps we should have wondered that she agreed so easily, but we didn’t. At least I didn’t.

What Aunt Ethel knew that we didn’t was that her kidneys were failing. After she went to the nursing home I went to visit her and brought the vase I had purchased on my recent trip to Israel. I told her I’d come and see her for Christmas. She said “Oh, honey, I won’t be here by Christmas.” I didn’t realize what she meant.

Christmas Day was on Sunday that year. After church the pastor read a note that she had passed away. We had a quiet dinner then my cousin and I went to pack up her belongings. He quietly handed me the vase. I still have it carefully packed away.

But the tree.

When we cleaned out the house a few weeks later, the tree was headed to the dump. But I told my aunt who was managing the estate that I’d like to have it.

We had it out in our home at Christmas for years. But one year it didn’t fare so well in the attic. Something chewed through the eletrical cord. It’s been on my “I mean to fix that” list for years.

Tonight, I did. When I couldn’t find the wiring mechanism I wanted at Lowe’s, I hit upon the idea of a battery powered LED light. And there you have it.

It doesn’t glow brightly. The paper “branches” have faded and browned.

But it may be my most favorite tree ever.

This Christmas Day will be 30 years since we lost Aunt Ethel.

Oh to have her ask me one more time to brush her hair. Or to read me the “just one more” book I had hidden under my pillow. Or to tell me to turn the heat on in the front room where I’d gone to practice piano. Or even to call in the middle of the night to ask me to come and see if the furnace had blown up.

The little tree may be small and fragile, but it holds all of those memories.

As Linus said, “It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”

I’ve got that covered.

3 comments

    • Jeanne Erzinger on December 20, 2013 at 12:17 am

    Oh Mike, you made me cry again!

    • Jeanne Erzinger on December 20, 2013 at 12:18 am

    And the Charlie Brown tree does look a little better than the plant next to it.

  1. Mike, this is beautiful. It says so perfectly what all of us think about when we think of departed loved ones and the memories connected to them, especially at Christmas. Thanks for sharing your memories, your gift of such perfect articulation, your loving spirit and kind heart. (It’s no wonder you make such a great Santa!) Hope you and yours have the Christmas of your dreams.

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