When I entered the small living room of my host on the Solstice day, my eyes were drawn immediately to the Christmas tree, flocked in white and covered in birds: clear glass birds, traditional ornament birds, felted birds, birds made of bells and pinecones. The tree was magical, and it drew me once again to a story I have been trying to write for months, well years really: a story of birds on a Christmas tree.
My auntie, long deceased, gave bird ornaments. She believed that birds should hang on Christmas trees. Every year she bought a new bird to hang on the tree in her home, and gave it to her son, her only child, to fill him with the magic of birds.
After Auntie died I picked my cousin up at the airport to spend the holiday with our family, his first Christmas without his mother. He told me sadly that he would miss getting a bird from his mother. At her death, I hadn’t thought of this detail, as I am sure he hadn’t until this season came around. I asked him what he did with all the birds from past Christmases. “Gone,” he said. “She sold them in a garage sale when I was in college.”
I remember the sale. Auntie was tired of moving, tired of schlepping her things from apartment to apartment, tired of fighting with her only son, and tired of the pain that comes with divorce. She sold it all: childhood toys, jewelry, family antiques, clothing, and Christmas decorations.
For many years now, I have been reliving that garage sale. Wishing I had the presence of mind to stop it or to at least stop the sale of those birds. I wished I could have bought them and presented them to my cousin in some grand gesture of family love and loyalty. I even pictured myself going door to door on the street where Auntie lived asking people if they had bought any bird ornaments at a garage sale, oh so many years ago. Every year at about this time I can picture the event: bird ornaments being lifted out of a dusty card board box as they were sold one by one on a hot July day while my cousin waited tables in a far away town, trying to save enough money to buy books for college, unaware that they were disappearing.
The story has a happy ending, I told my host, whose tree I stood there and admired. A few years later my cousin married a woman who gives him a bird ornament every year for Christmas. He has 10 now.
Legend says that birds are the carriers of spirit: taking the soul with them as they fly high above treetops or perch on branches to sing their song, and so I bask in the glow of my hosts bird filled Christmas tree in the waning light of this solstice day. All those years I had pictured the fateful garage sale when really this special bird filled tree is what I should have been dreaming about. I finally understand what Auntie always knew. At last, I am comforted by birds.
Amy C for the PGM
Amy C for the PGM