The Ornament, A Christmas Microfiction

A Story

Edith would always remember the day she could take her ornament home, a wooden star glued together from pop sticks.  All week she had been watching it swinging in the window, the red paint turning rubbery and hot in the afternoon sun.  She had smeared the tips in thick glue and dipped them into rough chunks of gold glitter.  A tiny gold bell hung from the middle.  On the back read the letters EG: Edith Granger.  There would be no confusion.

‘This is for the special tree,’ Edith said, as she handed it up to her mother, the small bell chiming.

Their Christmas tree was the finest Edith had ever seen.  Every year it was the same.  Lights first, then beads.  Never tinsel.  Never plastic.  Gleaming gold bells next, then glass stars caught in the sun.  Finally came the one-off decorations, the painted scenes, and patterned crafts.  Their house was decorated with exacting precision.

As she grew, Edith would peer into the cardboard boxes, all carefully packed with tissue, wondering when her ornament would be pulled out.  Every year, the wooden star was hung on the tree amongst the perfect, hand blown glass collectors items her mother cherished.

When Edith turned thirty three, her mother passed away.  She and her brother traveled home to spend a week packing up the property.  Finally they found themselves holding their breath as they nervously opened The Walk-in Wardrobe where the Christmas decorations piled five boxes high. 

‘It’s all yours sis.’

‘No, I couldn’t possibly, you should take it.’

‘No, no, I insist.’

‘I don’t want them.’

‘You think I do?’

Edith slid the boxes in the back of her husband’s car and drove them slowly up the coast to their apartment in the city.  The boxes claimed half the width of the hallway, two under their bed and one tucked in beside the toilet.  For three months, she and Leo tripped over them, moved them about the apartment and finally took two boxes back downstairs to store in the boot of her car.

‘I guess it’s all kind of a ‘family heirloom’ now,’  Edith said, as she slid the last box into the living room towards Leo.  

‘Is it, though?’

Their tree went up on the fourth of December.  Edith started to decorate. 

‘What is this?’  Leo pulled a tiny hand made wooden star from one of the boxes, holding it up laughing and pointing, the little bell ringing in his fingers. ‘You made this?  Your mother must have hated this!  Did she ever hang it?’

‘Every year as a matter of fact,’ Edith smirked.  ‘It was the only homemade ornament we ever had.’

‘Then, what do we think this is?’  Leo reached into the same box and pulled out another small pop stick star, poorly made and twisted.  The glitter caught in large clumps of dried glue, and the red paint was so thick it dried into a plastic webbing.  The bell in the middle was fixed by an enormous tangle of string. 

Leo lay the both stars down on the coffee table, side by side.  Edith lifted the perfect star in her fingers.  Touching it, she could easily draw out a memory.  It was the ornament that hung on her tree every year.  She had seen it so many times and could still remember that first day she brought it home.

Looking at the other star, she felt nothing. No warmth of a memory.  She had never seen it before.  She turned it over in her fingers and there on the back written in the unmistakably urgent scrawl of a child were the letters EG.

Originally published on THE WRITING JUNCTION in conjunction with the WOLLONGONG WRITERS FESTIVAL.

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