Accident takes Christmas to the topCHUCK FREDERICK: Our Christmas tree topper this year is little more than a rolled-up piece of typewriter paper with another piece of stark-white paper stuck to it. It’s all masking tape and wrinkles. It sags a bit on one side, and it stands at an angle, like an old man leaning on his cane.
By: Chuck Frederick, Duluth News Tribune
Our Christmas tree topper this year is little more than a rolled-up piece of typewriter paper with another piece of stark-white paper stuck to it. It’s all masking tape and wrinkles. It sags a bit on one side, and it stands at an angle, like an old man leaning on his cane.
It’s also the most beautiful tree topper I’ve ever seen.
Our old tree topper was strong and tall and bright red and covered with glitter that caught the twinkle lights at every angle and that captured the glow of the season. It featured an apple-shaped midsection and a proud spike at the top. Though I liked to joke it looked like it belonged atop the helmet of a German soldier during World War I, the topper was part of our Christmas traditions seemingly forever.
That changed the Friday after Thanksgiving when we were getting out our ornaments and our decorations and doing up our house for another season of celebration. The details related to what happened are a bit sketchy, and, really, they don’t matter. The bottom line is that somehow our youngest daughter, Reggie, who’s 7, got hold of the old tree topper and was playing with it in the hallway outside her bedroom, and somehow it made contact with the wall, and somehow it shattered into many pieces. With tears in her eyes and apologies pouring from her tongue, Reggie brought the biggest of the pieces out to the living room to show us.
We didn’t punish her. It was an accident, we decided, and she felt so terribly. But we also didn’t hide our sadness and the disappointment we felt at the demise of an heirloom that had been as much a part of our Christmas celebrations as the silly hints we scribble on all our gifts. We’d get a new topper — maybe even a ghastly, lit-up Packers one, please — and until we did the tree’s highest point could simply remain bare.
The following morning, well before dawn, my wife and I were awakened by a poking finger. It was Reggie.
“Mom, Dad,” she said. “I’m up. Can I go do an art project?” We thought little of the request. The kid was always doing art projects or writing books.
“Unhh-kay,” we answered and rolled over and went back to sleep.
When we got up that morning, Reggie ran to us, a piece of paper clutched in her hands roughly the shape of an angel. Sure, sure, there are its wings.
“It’s a star,” she announced. Of course.
“It’s for the tree.”
That’s when we noticed the thing’s rolled-up appendage for the top of the tree to stick into. And that’s when we started to realize the wonder of what our little girl had done, the lengths to which she had gone to make things right and to replace what she felt responsible for us losing.
After hugs and more tears — sweeter tears this time — we put up her star/angel. And watched it droop.
“It’s perfect,” we said. And it was. It absolutely was.
But the birth of this new Christmas tradition wasn’t over with yet. Charleigh, our 12-year-old daughter, delighted us next with a glittery, bright-red, apple-shaped decoration. During cleanup the night before she had saved the heart of what was our old tree topper and transformed it into a Christmas ornament. We hung it from a bare branch. And it didn’t look anything like a World War I helmet anymore.
Just like our topper doesn’t look anything like masking tape and typing paper anymore.
To us, they both look like Christmas.
Chuck Frederick is the News Tribune’s editorial page editor. Contact him at email@example.com.