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'The Old Christmas Tree'

December 11, 2011|By Eve Begley Kiehm
  • "The Old Christmas Tree"
"The Old Christmas Tree" (Illustration by Patricia…)

"Grandma, in 13 days I'll be hanging up my stocking! I need to write my list for Santa before it's too late!"

Grandma smiled and asked, "Before you do that, Jack, help me with this old tree of mine."

They set up the Christmas tree near the window where its lights could shine out into the night. Jack climbed up on a chair to put the Christmas angel up on the very top branch.

Grandma said, "It's a shame that some of the branches have lost some of their artificial needles. You did a good job last year wrapping tinsel around those bare patches." Grandma sighed. "When I was a little girl in Scotland, it was new and perfect."

"I like it this way, Grandma. It sort of tells a story of its life."

"You're right, Jack. This tree has earned its bare branches, just like I have earned my wrinkles. We both survived."

Grandma got a far off look in her eyes as she lost herself in the memory of her childhood.

"It used to stand in our dining room every Christmas. 'Way back then I lived in a house with no electricity, so we couldn't have lights like these on our tree."

"What did you have, Grandma?"

"We had little candles which sat inside tiny tin candlesticks clipped on to the tree's branches. We had to be very careful with them because when they were lighted they had a little flame. My father was the only person who could light the candles and we would all stand around the tree and sing "We wish you a Merry Christmas, We wish you a Merry Christmas, We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!"

"Now we have electric Christmas lights," Jack said. "I like them better — and they're safer."

His grandmother looked out into the night.

"See that bright star up there," she said and pointed up at the night sky. "It's shining its little heart out! And can you believe that could be the very same star I used to look up at when I was a little girl?"

"That must be a very old star," Jack said and his grandmother laughed.

"Yes, it is — much older than I am even. It might be a million years old."

"Wow!" Jack. "I've never counted up to a million, but it'd take me a long time to count that far."

"And what is even more amazing, that star may have already died out and all we are seeing is its reflection."

"Grandma, what did you get for Christmas when you were a little girl?"

"Christmas was a little different back then. We didn't give or receive lots of gifts like we do today."

Jack's eyes opened wide. "You mean you didn't get any gifts? That's awful!"

"I don't mean that. We just didn't get so many. I often got a brand new doll and a few books and a new board game, maybe. Oh yes, and I'd always find an orange in the toe of my Christmas stocking along with some candies and a small toy or two. One year my favorite doll was dressed in a brand new wool dress and hat and socks and I figured that Mrs. Claus must have done the knitting!"

Jack stood back to admire the tree one more time. Then he sat down to write his list for Santa while his grandmother put on the kettle to boil water for a cup of tea.

"Will you read me a story, Grandma, when I'm ready for bed?" Jack asked.

"Of course. You pick one out and I'll be happy to read it."

The story, of course, was a Christmas story and it was about an old Christmas tree...

Special thanks to Patricia Cantor for her illustration. To see more of her work, visit patriciacantor.com.

For more Kids' Reading Room, visit latimes.com/kids.

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