My mother had a yard sale at our house on the farm before she sold the house and moved to an apartment in town, some years after Daddy died. She was tired and ill, and there was very little she held on to other than her clothes and her china and crystal.
I came to help out, and ended up hauling stuff back home with me that I couldn’t bear to be sold. My sister Sherrie was there, and she spotted all the Christmas ornaments and lights, heaped on the ground. Mother had kept the ornaments my sisters had given her, but had dumped all the balls and lights.
“Look at this,” Sherrie said. “These lights are older than you are.” She was right–I remembered them. The bulbs were plastic or glass and shaped like birds or stars. Sherrie always claimed the yellow bird sang to her from the top of the tree one Christmas. I took the string, as well as a string of the original Bubble Lights. Both strings were the kind that, if one bulb goes out, the string goes out, so you had go around the tree tightening and replacing bulbs until the string came back on again.
Those lights went to Atlanta with me, and then on to New York. I haven’t used them for several years. I bought one of those pre-lit artificial trees that looks more like a bottle brush than anything else a few years ago. When I load it down with ornaments it doesn’t look too ghastly.
But this time of year I remember searching over the farm for a cedar tree without a fork in the top. The first year after Daddy died, Mother and I went out into the fields with an ax, determined to have a Christmas no matter how awful we felt. We found a big, lovely cedar, round and full. It was all we could do to cut it down and drag it back to the house.
We put it in the garage and went to set it in a bucket of water so it could soak up some before it went in the tree stand. The tree was about six inches too tall for the garage ceiling, which meant it was more than a foot too tall for the house. Mother looked like she was going to burst into tears.
Then the phone rang. Uncle Floyd called to see what was going on. Mother told him our problem. He showed up 15 minutes later and sawed off the bottom of the tree to the correct height. So we had Christmas after all, using those bird lights, the Bubble Lights and all the other strings we had.