The Sad Christmas Tree
It was a sad little tree with a broken little star hanging from the crown. It was leaning against a garbage can at the curb. Kirby drove past it, stopped, debated for a minute then backed up and picked the sad little tree up and placed it in the back of his pickup truck. He nestled it behind the blown tire and the bag of half rotten cabbage that he had picked from the field on his way home. He drove on.
Carlos was a sad little boy. At six years of age already aware that his family was poor and did not belong with most of the families in the area. He already knew that he was not one of us. He was one of them. He knew that his father worked six sometimes seven days a week in the fields planting crops, weeding and cultivating, running the irrigation system, doing all the things that make food grow and then working to harvest the crops and prepare them for shipment. With all that work he did not make enough money to buy the food he grew to feed his family. To buy the food that Kirby grew, Carlos’s mother, Carla, had to sign up for food stamps. Carla use to clean house for some of the families that owned the fields where Kirby worked. When one of the families got scared that they might get in trouble for paying Carla without reporting it they stopped having her clean their house and they told all the other families and they all stopped hiring Carla as well. So Carla spent her days tending a little vegetable garden and looking for work that was close enough to walk to. Carlos knew all this. He was wise beyond his years.
Carlos did not smile or laugh very often. There was not much reason for him to be happy. When Kirby drove up to their little trailer and took the sad little tree out of the truck Carlos just stood and stared. Then a smile spread across his face as big as the New Mexican sky and as bright as the New Mexican sun. He never expected they would have a Christmas tree. He knew they could not afford Christmas presents. He ran to his father and together they brought the sad little tree into the sad little living room. Kirby plugged in the lights that were still attached to the tree and every light lite up like daybreak. Kirby and Carla straightened the plastic branches and fluffed out the drooping needles. Kirby tied the broken star so that it mostly sat on the crown of the tree. When they turned all the lights in the house off the tree radiated a magical warmth from the corner of their home. Carlos sat and starred for hours refusing to come and eat dinner. His parents let Carlos stay up way past his bedtime and the whole time he just sat and stared at the tree as if in a trance.
After a while Carlos did not know if he was really seeing the lights of the little Christmas tree of if he was dreaming. Gradually he realized that the wind did not blow through the house where the siding was missing and the heat worked all the time and kept the house cozy and warm and the broken window was not patched with duct tape. He knew he was not in the workers rental trailer so he was sure he was dreaming.
In his dream the whole house was decorated with colored lights and ribbons and even flowers. His father did not look tired because he only had to work five days a week and he was paid enough to live on. On his father’s feet were a good pair of brand new boots. Then Carlos saw his mother in a new pretty blouse standing in the kitchen cooking dinner. She looked so happy because she had found a good job and they had plenty of good food for her to cook.
The dream faded and Carlos saw the light from the sad little tree still glowing in the corner greeting the Christmas dawn. Carlos was wrapped in a blanket and had spent the night sleeping in his father’s arms. Beside his father’s chair Carlos saw his mother asleep on the old worn couch. But Carlos felt warm in a way that the heater never made him feel.
The little tree no longer looked sad. The little boy no longer looked sad.
Tomorrow he thought, tomorrow we will start again. It can be better; I know that it can be better.
One Small Voice
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