Another Christmas Story
Emmie Acton Cooper
©2010 Emmie Acton Cooper
Our neighbor brought a box into the house.
Mr. Kreisler is a finicky, neatly dressed small man with a pair of very large hands and unruly short curly hair. He wears gray trousers, white oxford shirts and navy suspenders with an elegant navy blazer. I thought it was an odd ensemble to wear to bring a dusty box to our home. I looked across of him at the big brown box with inquisitive eyes.
It was a Christmas tree…
While mother looked at the tree distraught and with a faint feeling of surprise on her lovely young face, I stared at the giant green plastic three with eyes full of amazement. Being the oldest at nine years old, I was the first one to place an ornament on it. I was delighted. Mother said it was time to go to bed, that tomorrow we would finish decorating our tree.
I was grateful for Mr. Kreisler, for the tree. We had fallen in financial trouble and about to lose our home, this was a nice gesture and a blessing.
The skies outside were dark, the menacing icy wind roaring, banging and rattling the doors and windows looking for a little crease to get inside our already freezing home.
I looked around our candle lit family room; this was our temporary sleeping quarters since we had no electricity, heat or water and very few candles left. A black long haired rat roamed the room picking up every little crumpet on the floor. I kept my vigilant eye on her. I didn’t want the critter close to my siblings. The quintuplets looked like a litter of cats on one corner of the dimmed room. I stared at my little sisters and brothers crowed into little balls against each other under a heavy blue velvet blanket, trying to keep warm. Their long curled eyelashes shadow’s reflected on their smooth ivory skin.
It was fifteen degrees outside.
Three girls and two boys…My mother was excited when she found out she was carrying quintuplets.
My dad… not so much.
He abandoned my Mother and I the day after finding out Mother was expecting quintuples. That was three years ago. I was happy that my drunken abusive father was gone but unaware exactly of the dreary financial consequences. I turned my head to the corner where the giant plastic green tree was, its shadow hovering over the children as if trying to protect them and keep them warm. The candles were not enough to keep us warm…we were shivering.
Mother lighted up a small round red barbecue grill she’d received as a present a few years back, filling it up with coal brackets in an attempt to keep us warm.
The neighbor had offered us their house but mother didn’t want to be a nuisance to him she said.
I think she didn’t trust him.
“He smells like whisky most of the time sweetheart, I think he has a problem...” She would tell me, trying to explain her apprehension. I changed my thoughts and started imagining how the tree would look like after being decorated. I couldn’t wait to get the silver and red Christmas balls and lights out! I imagined the smiles, the singing and dancing around the tree, us being careful not to break any of the decorations or mom would be sad. They were special to her.
It got colder in the room…mom cradled all six of us in an attempt to keeping us warm…shivers erupted one after the other…it got darker as one by one our white candles consumed.
I got sleepy and colder by the minute, until I fell into a deep sleep…
When I opened my eyes next, the tree was exquisitely decorated and lighted. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I ran towards the tree calling out for my brothers and sisters to open their eyes and see it.
I got no response.
I turned around towards our little bed tucked in one corner of the room.
We were all there.
Our once cherry tinted lips had turn a shade of blue.
We were blue lipped, pale and crunched up against each other as we were last night. Horror contorted my face. A sharp pain filled my heart.
Are we…? I couldn’t finish my thought, instead I ran towards them panicked, desperate to wake them up.
Tears ran down my cheeks. My throat filled with whimpering sounds pushing hard to be released.
God, please let it be a dream, please let me wake up… I thought as I hastily picked up my pace, my arms outstretched reaching for them. Abruptly, my hands felt a wall, a warm wall as invisible as air. I banged on the wall, kicked it in fury, scratched it and kicked it again. It did nothing! I fell on the ground, crying, trembling and scared…
Despair turned to anger, agony to fury! I took a big breath, ready to scream at God for taking us, for turning his back on us, my chest moving up and down heavily, while I gathered all my strength to give it to him. Like a possessed child, I slowly turned around, my head down and my fists so tight my tendons were showing… I was being dramatic; I wanted him to hear me out! My gaze encountered a shimmering floor and the air was filled with the sweetest music I’d ever heard, like hundreds of tiny wind chimes in a summers day…my brothers and sisters giggles. Mother grinning, radiating like the sun! Her usually pink lips were apple colored, her long curled eyelashes fluttered like a moths wings.
“My beloved compassionate child, why are you crying?” she asked tenderly.
“We are dead mother, we are dead! Can you see us? I want to wake up from this nightmare!” I screamed, pointing towards the other side of the room. She graciously cocked her head slightly to the left and looked at me with eyes full of love and tenderly replied…
“Darling, that was the nightmare.”
I thought for a second, her words echoed in my eardrums, instantly comprehending we were no longer cold or suffering but surrounded by an amazing, fulfilling love.