She gaped at the tree so tall and sturdy, the stars and the lights shimmered in her eyes. The shiny colorful balls hanging, the candy canes, the presents wrapped and left so carelessly beneath the tree, She looked at them all and her eyes widened with awe. Not for too long though, for she looked away. She stood there thinking for a while. The tiny marigold plant, they called the Christmas tree, drooped from the weight of the tattered, colored paper ribbons. It wasn’t even a quarter of this tree.
She sighed. She had always wanted to have those huge, green, plastic trees, to climb atop the branches and hang the different shapes and colors. But they were poor. Mamma had to earn all alone for her and her three sisters. She walked past the house, longing for those balls of happiness, looking back now and then, as though she might own them at her will.
I watched her looking at my huge plastic Christmas tree. I couldn’t bear the sight and so, I decided to follow her sans her knowledge.
We turned the corner twice and the road became steep. We walked a mile further and then she stopped in front of a tiny hut. She opened the tiny wooden gate. I gaped in awe at all the marigold blooms. Her hut was lit with yellows and oranges solely from the marigold plants that had spread around. As my eyes traced the plants one by one, they fixed on a particularly large one with color papers and bits of confetti hanging from the tiny branches.
She ran to her golden Christmas tree, opened the tiny ball of paper she was holding, took out some broken balls and stars and adorned her tiny tree with them. I gaped without tearing my eyes off the field of yellows. I yearned for a marigold. I did not have a single plant at home, for there was no space in my apartment.
I’d prefer a hundred marigold Christmas trees to the single plastic one I had. For nothing could beat the feeling of real things around you. Plastics are just that. Unreal.
I walked to the shop nearby. I could hear the carols playing in the background. I bought some balls, bells and stars of different colors, tiny Santas and snowmen too. I gathered them all and walked to her hut. There she was, arranging the broken balls.
She turned around and recognised me, “Hi”
“I was passing by and noticed that you have a lovely Christmas tree here. But, the stars and bells seem to be broken. I have some extra Christmas decorations left and I have no room in my tree. Do you mind decorating all the marigolds with these?”
“But Christmas is over. I was just hanging some things I found in the street, just the bits and pieces. We generally decorate the trees before Christmas. I don’t think I’ll need anymore. Thank you.”
Her answer came out gradually. A reply well thought of.
“Do you still see decorated trees around the neighborhood?”, I asked softly.
“If Christmas is over, they should have taken them all down. Right?”
“Christmas doesn’t get over in a day dear. It is a feeling. You can choose to keep it as long as you want. Similarly, you can choose to decorate your tree whenever you want.” I said, extending the packets.
She looked at my hands and then back at me. A smile spread across her face. Then came the suspicious look.
“Are you sure that you don’t want them? My mother tells me that I shouldn’t trouble anyone.”
“Oh! I am very sure. If you don’t take these, I’ll leave them in the cupboard. They’ll turn sad and lonely. Besides, I am the one asking you a favour and troubling you, right? Won’t you help me use them?”
“When you put it that way, erm… I will take them.” she said. “Mamma wouldn’t say no to that. Mamma says we should help everyone.”
She took them from me and wobbled as she walked. There were too many for her tiny arms. She placed them near the plants and then turned to look at me.
“Thank you so much.”, she was beaming.
“Can I ask you for another favour?” I asked.
“Can I join you in decorating all the trees?”
“Yes! It will be fun. I will call my sisters too.”
Image courtesy: Here
She ran inside and called the others. We decorated all the plants around her hut. They brought some light bulbs with only a few working lights. I ‘remembered’ I had some lonely lights at home and brought them some. After an hour of shouts, laughter, joy and giggles, I stood in a heaven. I do not remember a Christmas more beautiful and lively. Their hut seemed to nestle amidst a thousand colored fireflies. I do not remember seeing children so gay and happy. They invited me inside and insisted that I have some soup.
That night, as I walked back home, my heart brimming with joy, thinking of all the tiny happy faces and giggles, I resolved to spend every Christmas this way. “Mamma look! Our trees look the best in the neighborhood!” the girl had cried. She was right. Her happiness was contagious.
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was playing in my head. I was the Santa for those children and those children were tiny Santas for me.
Image courtesy: Here
I reached home and looked at my plastic Christmas tree. It wasn’t too bad. I pined for some real plants in my apartment. But it was too small and I had no time to water them. This tree is what compensates for their absence. I wondered about how our desires differed. Those who had real things around them preferred the unreal ones and vice versa.
I sighed and smiled. I was about to retire to bed when I heard a thud outside. I went to the balcony and looked around. There was nothing there. As I was about to go in, I heard it again. And then, some swishing. My eyes gradually accustomed to the darkness and I saw it. My neighbours were dragging a pine tree across the road.
Before Christmas, they had chopped the pine tree from the woods nearby. I remembered it standing tall in their courtyard with all the shimmering decorations and lights. Now that Christmas was over for them, they were discarding it, in the same woods. They took it alive and abandoned it dead. They left it there and walked away and I saw the tears. I saw the blood where it had been chopped. Dried blood. I smelled the sorrow and heard the shivers in the cold of the night. I watched the tree die in the dark and closed the curtains.
I walked back to my plastic tree and smiled. At least I did not kill anyone this Christmas. I valued this plastic tree more than I did, few minutes ago.
It is how you treat a Christmas tree after Christmas that defines who you are.
PS – It has been very long since I wrote a short story. This is a happy moment for me and hence, goes into my,
100 Happy Days – Day 72
Happiness is writing short stories