37. The Twig Tree

37. The Twig Tree

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

The Twig Tree

When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses.

~Dr. Joyce Brothers

I looked at the big living room of the cabin we had rented. It was two weeks before Christmas and I had flown up to Wisconsin to be with my sons, grandsons, and new great-grandchild. My brother and his kids joined us. We were a rambunctious group of sixteen and were no strangers to celebrating Christmas on whatever weekend we could in December.

But this year we had forgotten the tree.

My two teenage grandsons ran to the cabin door dressed in heavy jackets, mittens and woolen hats. “We’ll be back,” they said.

Ten minutes later they reappeared. They stomped their feet to shake the snow off their boots and threw off their heavy clothes.

“Look what we found, Grandma,” Colton exclaimed. “A Christmas tree!”

They dragged in something brown and lifeless. A large, dried up tree limb with stick arms branching out in many directions.

“Oh, my,” I exclaimed with a grin.

Colton’s cousin Brandon rummaged in the kitchen cupboard and found a tall plastic pitcher. They put a little water in the bottom and then stuck the dead limb in and propped it up against the wall next to the fireplace to keep it from falling over.

My brother Peter walked into the room. “Good job. What about ornaments?”

“I’ve got one,” grandson Nick claimed. He took his empty soda can, pulled up the tab, and hung the can on a small nub on a branch of the tree.

“That’s pretty good,” Peter declared and laughed.

I laughed too. It was a Charlie Brown tree if I ever saw one. And what could be better than a stick tree for Christmas?

The first soda can was a root beer can in a rich brown and white. The next one added was green and yellow from a flavor of Mountain Dew. Then there were the red and white Coke cans, and the blue, red and white Pepsi cans.

That weekend we sat around the kitchen counter and watched as granddaughter Kaitlyn tried her hand at making pancakes for the very first time.

“I don’t know if they’re brown yet and ready to flip.” She peeked under another one. “Am I doing this right?”

“Just right,” we all sang out. “Hurry up, we’re hungry.”

Someone else browned two pounds of sizzling bacon and added that to the family breakfast table. The smell of scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes brought the last of the sleepy heads to the kitchen. Later that day, we frosted and decorated sugar cookies, with the children choosing the colors they wanted and sprinkling the colored sugars over the top of the frosting. Plate after plate of cookies was gobbled up in no time.

The tree twinkled in the light of the fireplace as we opened our gifts the second night, the shimmering light of the flames dancing off the brightly colored cans.

Curled up on the sofa with my legs tucked under me, I watched my grown sons gather up the wrapping paper torn off the presents. “Perfect,” I whispered, and thought no one heard me. But my brother did.

“What’s perfect?” he said.

I looked at the whole family — so full of life, of laughter, of ingenious creativity. “Everything. And especially the twig tree.”

Peter laughed. “It is pretty cool. Who would have thought we could make something so special out of what was on the ground behind the cabin?”

Just then another child delicately hung a bright orange can on the tree. It dangled from the pull top tab, bent the branch and dipped low. He watched it settle into just the right spot.

I was filled to the brim with love for all of my family, and thankful that I could fly up to Wisconsin and we could all be together.

That twig tree became the focal point that year. There has been no other tree like it. Sometimes memories aren’t planned. They just happen. We had gathered to share Christmas and our love for one another and we made a memory that would last a lifetime.

~B.J. Taylor

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