We all have our favorite things when it comes to the holidays. There are old traditions and new ones we hold dear. Here’s a little story about one of them.

The Best Thing

Liz Mosby shared her hot cocoa with her six-year-old granddaughter, Katie, who snuggled in her lap. Kate’s mother put the final silver bow on the perfectly-decorated, perfectly-shaped, artificial Christmas tree, and stepped back to admire her handiwork.

“There! All done! What do you think?” Susan asked, looking to her daughter and mother-in-law for approval.

“It’s real pretty, Mommy. But I could’ve put the bows on the bottom for you,” Katie said, showing her pique at not being allowed to help decorate.

“Maybe next year, Kiddo, when you’re a little older.” Susan shrugged and turned to Liz. “What’s your verdict?”

“Very elegant. Looks like something out of a magazine. If that’s what you were aiming for, you achieved your goal.”

Susan’s smile at the assumed compliment was as bright as the lights on her tree.

Liz squeezed Katie and whispered in her ear. “But it’s not nearly as pretty as when Santa decorated our tree.”

Katie’s jaw dropped and her eyes grew as big as her grandma’s sugar cookies. “Really? Santa decorated your tree?”

“He sure did. Of course, we had a real tree, not one of those store bought kind. Santa likes the challenge of making them look perfect, plus they smell good.”

Katie turned to her mother, who was clearing away the empty cups. “Is that why Santa doesn’t decorate our tree? ‘Cuz it’s artificial?”

“No, honey, there are just too many trees. If he spent all his time decorating, he wouldn’t have time to deliver all the toys.”

Katie nodded thoughtfully. It sounded logical to her. She turned to Liz, with pleading, puppy-dog eyes. “Tell me what it was like, Grams—PLEASE!

“Well,” she said, shifting the child’s weight in her arms and settling into her story. “First thing, the whole family would go out searching for the most perfect tree we could find. Mama was so fussy, we’d walk through the city streets for miles, stopping at every tree stall along the way. Papa would hold the tree at arm’s length and bang the bottom against the sidewalk so the branches would settle a little. My sister, Evey, and I always wanted one of the first ones, but Mama was never satisfied so easily. When we finally found a tree Mama liked, the four of us would carry it home. Papa in front carrying the heaviest part, Mama at the end, with Evey and me in the middle.”

“That sounds like fun,” Katie squealed.

“It was! But it was hard work—and usually bitter cold too.

“Once we got the tree upstairs to our apartment, Mama and Papa would struggle to get it to stand straight. Evey and I always begged to decorate it—just like you begged your mother—but Mama said Santa would be disappointed. So we went to bed on Christmas eve with the house smelling of sweet pine and the tree standing tall and dark in the corner.

“Crack of dawn, Christmas morning, we’d leap out of bed and run to the living room for our first look at Santa’s work. There were presents scattered everywhere, under the tree and overflowing onto the furniture, but it was always the tree that caught my attention first. All the colored lights, the candy canes, and painted glass ornaments sparkling against the silver icicles—and the angel smiling down. Ever since, the tree has always been my favorite part of Christmas.”

Katie’s tiny finger wiped a tear that slid down her grandmother’s cheek.

“Why are you crying, Grams?”

The old woman glanced at the magazine-perfect Christmas tree, then smiled at Katie through her tears. “Because now you are my favorite part of Christmas.”

~Elise Skidmore ©2019

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  1. Thanks so much, Rosemary! Like any writer, I pull things from memory to enhance what is made up of fantasy and wishes. Unlike the heroine of this short story, I’m still left with the tree being my favorite part of Christmas–along with the happy memories of Christmases past.