The last link to Christmas
Every year, on Dec. 14, my family hung a red and green paper chain from the ceiling light in the dining room. And every night after that, we tore off one link before dinner. When the last link was gone, we knew the next day was Christmas Eve.
It was my dream to tear off the final link. But we took turns, and I was a middle child, so my turn always came in the middle. Good old anonymous Dec. 20; that was me.
The glory of that last link went to the youngest -- Heidi, who was so small she had to be hoisted up toward the ceiling. The rest of us sat at our places around the long dinner table and cheered.
Bring on Christmas!
One day in early December, when I was in kindergarten, my teacher handed out red and green construction paper, snub-nosed scissors, and those messy pots of white paste. We would make our own chains. Finally, I could usher in Christmas Eve myself.
I brought my chain home and Scotch-taped it to the wall by my bed. It was exciting to have it so close, a potent reminder of the impending festivities, candy canes and loot.
That night, I tore off a link, and then I snuggled under the covers and went to sleep.
In the morning, the chain was gone.
Almost before I could holler, my mother came in the room. She held the remnants of the chain in her hands. It was in pieces; every single link had been ripped in half. "This was downstairs on the coffee table," she said. "What in the world happened to it?"
I had no idea. And then David came forward -- David, age 7, my older brother and an apparent eyewitness.
He said he had heard a noise in the night. He got up to investigate, and he saw me.
I was standing in the upstairs hall in my white nightgown, holding the paper chain in one hand. The house was creaking with those old-house moans that always sound more pronounced at midnight.
He called my name, and I turned to face him. I looked at him, but he could tell, even in the dim light, that I didn't see him; I was asleep. I turned and glided away.
David ran back to his room and pulled the blankets over his head.
While I, apparently, continued on downstairs in the dark, in my hopeful and impossible and sound-asleep attempt to hurry the arrival of Christmas.
a note on the photos: the top picture is Heidi in front of the tree, 1967.
the bottom picture has nothing to do with christmas; it's just a picture of david and me playing chess when we were little, at about the same time that this story takes place. we were always great pals.