Saturday, November 28, 2009

Eddie's Christmas Star

by Elaine Hardt ©1990

Star was born in the imagination of Eddie Anderson on December 11 last year. For Chosen Ones, like Real Ones, birth was just the first step in this stretching-growing adventure we call Life.

If you asked him, Eddie might not be able to recall the exact details. Active minds rarely cling to the past, but always seem to be pressing eagerly towards the dawn of the future -- while celebrating the golden Now with complete exuberance. So those of us who wish to chronicle such events will need to tread backwards briefly to that afternoon on the eleventh of December.

Young Eddie had already finished his math paper and was turning around in his seat to see if Will and Bill had finished theirs. The eagle eye of Mrs. Newman noted half with pride and half aggravation that her first pupil had finished the seat work. All the others seemed bent over in earnest toil, almost interested in accuracy today, she thought. Perhaps it’s only because Christmas is coming.

At any rate, she preferred to eliminate the possibility of distraction. And Eddie would always be grateful to her for the snap decision to send him to the art room.

The art room with its fascinating mingles of odors and shelves of supplies seemed like the next stop before Heaven to boys of Eddie’s age and active mind. There was stuff everywhere.

Mrs. Parslip ran her domain like a cross between a generous regal queen, and a velvet-slippered pixie. She demanded a certain diligence in effort, and yet rewarded with a smile the brash innocence of youthful creators. Children like Eddie who got to go to her room between regular art periods often had dreams of someday inheriting such a wonderful place.

She was just coming out of the door when Eddie skipped around the corner. “Oh, you must be on a good behavior pass. Well, make yourself at home. I have scads of phone calls to make.”

Sometimes it took like-forever moments before Eddie could decide what to begin to work on. Colored paper mounted to the sky. Open jars of glitter, rows of paints, and boxes of neat stuff overflowed from every counter. Who could ever catalog such a world? Feathers, ribbons of rainbow hue, fat rolls of string and yarn, crepe paper, old magazines, newspapers, Styrofoam and balsa blocks, not to mention tacks and pins, glue guns, and paste pots. And that was just on the first table.

But today his mind was made up. In the hall display case Eddie had seen the Christmas tree ornaments that the 6th graders had made. Not content to just copy an idea from another student Eddie had already decided to make the most beautiful star that ever graced an evergreen tree.

So you see, Star was born in Eddie’s imagination that very afternoon. And in a way both Mrs. Newman and Mrs. Parslip had a hand in it. Both ladies, though of opposite ages completely, encouraged young Eddie to find a creative outlet for his considerable energy. Was it merely pragmatic? Well, we cannot digress into that now, can we? There’s a story to be told. If Eddie were here he’d be squirming in his seat, with a gleam in his eyes that told you to get to the point.

The actual details of Star’s emergence, her splashes of silver metallic paint over the Day-glo pink tag board, the gleaming golden glitter mounded atop puddles of Kwik-dry glue, along with the struggles of using “lefty” scissors we leave for your own imagination. What mattered was this: in thirty minutes Star had her own unique shape and was standing in a clearing on the back table to dry.

“Get ya right after school, Star,” Eddie called over his shoulder as he dashed out the door.

For Star life was just beginning. It was an interesting feeling to be a Chosen One, and she wondered what would be next. Time marched to the same slow drummer for her as for the pupils in room 3. But promptly on the bell her boy appeared with a great big plastic bag.

Outside the sky was kitten-gray, and the frigid wind promised to deliver another helping of snow by nightfall. As he slid into the car Eddie noted happily the two sacks brimful of wrapped gifts on the back seat. Yes, secrets and surprises were in the air.

The ride home didn’t take long. As usual, Mother questioned Eddie about the day’s events which he related with relish. Omitting one very important detail, he clutched his bag protectively. Baby Chrissy was being cared for by the teenager baby-sitter next door, so her chatter was missing this afternoon.

No sooner home, Eddie ran upstairs to hide his treasure in the closet, firmly closing the door against intrusion. He explained to Star why the dark seclusion was necessary, and for her, it was a relief to feel protected from a 3 year-old’s curiosity.

The rest of the afternoon was fun. For Eddie, most things were. Once when he was younger he amused himself for a good thirty minutes with a short piece of string from his pocket while sitting in the corner for Time Out.

In the evening Father got back from his business trip and surprised everyone by dragging in a 6 foot blue spruce, delicately dusted with fresh snowflakes. “Well, being Friday and all, I thought we could decorate the tree tomorrow on my day off, and . . . "

Soon the tree was standing on its own in the living room, and the house took on the delicious smell of the deep woods. Never mind that they could not decorate it tonight; it had been a full day and all were willing to go to bed on time. First, however, Mother had insisted on Father bringing down from the upstairs hall closet a large cardboard box marked,


Of course, Eddie had to take off the lid and peer inside.

Upstairs tucked under a cloud of comforter Eddie dutifully closed his eyes. Prayers over, Mother tiptoed out, leaving the Dandy Dinosaur night light shining in the corner. How long to wait, that was the question.

“If I lie here very long I’ll go to sleep. And that would spoil my surprise. Better get up and get chilly so I can stay awake.” So Eddie sat quietly in the rocking chair left over from his own baby days. With deep maroon velvet cushions it became any number of exciting things to his active imagination. Tonight it was the launching pad for his scheme.

“Just a little longer. Just a little longer. Just a . . . “

All of a sudden the insistent bong of the grandfather clock downstairs in the hall startled Eddie. “Oh, I’ve been sleeping! What time is it?” Luckily his digital wristwatch glowed brightly, clearly reporting that it was 12:00.

“For sure, they’re asleep by now.” Cautiously opening the door the silence seemed as deep as the dark in the hallway. Ducking back into his room, groping in the closet for his big plastic bag, an even putting on his Ronnie Rabbit slippers (!) took a few minutes.

At the stroke of midnight a most remarkable thing had happened downstairs. Quickly, let’s roll back the time so as not to miss the excitement.

“Hurrah, it’s midnight. Now we can talk.” A jolly pixie in emerald and ermine garb broke the silence.

“It’s been such a long time since last Christmas. And it was so stuffy in that dusty box,” exclaimed a frosty plastic snowball.

“After that long rest I simply must dance. Come on,” sang a glamorous pink and lavender Dancing Doll. Gracefully she glided to music she alone could hear.

So it was an exuberant assembly of Christmas ornaments strutting, stretching, leaping joyfully around the tree in the living room. Giddily they twirled until their colors seemed to melt together in one iridescent blur, encircling the watchful eyes of the Christmas tree.

“Christmas comes but once a year,
A time of joy, a time for cheer.
The Christmas tree we decorate,
Let’s all join in to celebrate.”

That next to the last step always did have a loose board. So a “cre-e-eak!” sent shivers up more than just Eddie’s spine. Instantly the frivolity ended as ornaments dashed to their places and froze motionlessly.

“I’ll set you right here, little Star, so Mom and Dad will find you in the morning.” Eddie’s voice was soft as he carefully set her right in front of the tree. In the shimmering shaft of moonlight Star could see the love in his eyes, so she knew everything would be all right.

No sooner had he tip-toed up the stairs and crept into the welcome cocoon of his bed did the trouble erupt. Blue Bell was the first to speak, commenting, “Well, how about that! Little Eddie sure has grown since we saw him last year.”

For a long moment all the ornaments were quiet, too quiet. Then Red Ball blurted, “And who are you?”

“I’m -- I’m Star. Eddie’s Christmas tree Star.” She was surprised at her hesitant but audible reply.

“What! You a -- a Christmas ornament?” demanded the Toy Soldier.

“Look at her. She’s slightly smudged!”

“She’s lop-sided!”

“She’s homemade!”

“There must be some mistake. The Anderson’s always have such good taste,” Red Ball exclaimed.

“Doesn’t anyone consult me? I’ve always wanted to be handsome with my branches decorated with shiny new ornaments,” the tree spoke forcefully.

“Oh dear. Oh, me. The glue bottle was sticky and the scissors wouldn’t cut. I see that I’m not as lovely as you,” Star replied.

“Anyway, there’s no more room on the tree. Every good spot is taken,” announced the Gilded Horse.

“Yes, that’s right!” barked the soldier, who prided himself on being able to keep order. His shiny brass buttons and painted sabre gave him an air of authority, though he was shorter than most of the others.

“I’m not giving up my place,” several others declared.

“Neither am I. I love being up there. What a view!” Even the beautiful Dancing Doll’s painted smile seemed to take on a harsh look.

Like an avalanche the others joined in, “She can’t have my place.”

Toy Soldier was quick to conclude, “Well, that settles it. There’s no room for her.”

Dancing Doll added the final touch of rejection. “When the grownups come tomorrow to help us up on the branches they’ll toss you out!”

Clasping hands, the ornaments chorused in unison,
“Every year we get to be,
The ones to decorate the tree.
And look, we’re shiny, just like new,
Plainly there’s no room for you.”

So the adventure that Eddie planned for his Star had taken an unexpected turn. Could it be that Chosen Ones become harsh and unloving! Real Ones so often do, when quick to judge and neglecting to mull things over. But, at this time of the year?

Stunned, Star sat in silence before the unfriendly Tree with eyes averted. No one actually saw it, but it almost felt like a warm tear slid down her face.

At that instant a resplendent Angel stepped forward from the shadows. “Yes, there is room on the tree. Eddie’s star belongs on the very top.” Her sweet voice spoke lovingly, yet firmly.

“But Celeste, that’s your place!” protested the Dancing Doll.

“You were there at that very first Christmas. You sang to the shepherds. You have every right to be on the top of the Christmas tree,” insisted the Toy Soldier.

“True, I was in the heavenly chorus at Bethlehem that night. But there was a star, too. A special star that showed the way,” murmured the Angel.

“It most certainly was NOT Eddie’s Christmas tree Star,” argued the Teddy Bear, who until now had not vocalized his opinion.

“No,” smiled the Angel indulgently as she patiently explained, “But this star will remind the people about God’s star.”

Preoccupied with her own inner turmoil, Star could hardly believe what she was hearing. Without lifting her eyes she forced the truth out, “You are very kind to say that. But I realize that I do not deserve such an honor.”

Dancing Doll interrupted in a voice both shy and compassionate, “None of us deserve to be on the Christmas tree, especially after being so rude. I want to apologize.”

Blue Bell was quick to see the error of his ways, “Eddie must love you very much. I’m sorry we hurt your feelings.”

In a cloud of confusion Star lifted her eyes slowly and glanced at the row of ornaments. Their smiles seemed genuine. The air of superiority had been replaced by a radiance of care and concern.

“Oh, I forgive you. All of you. But I still don’t want to cause any problems. What should I do?”

“Don’t worry. Just stand here with us when the clock strikes one. None of us can talk or move after that,” the Toy Solder felt he had to set things straight.

“Until the next midnight,” added the Roly-poly Panda.

The imported Amazon Parrot warbled, “And in the morning the grownups will decorate the Christmas tree. It’s such fun!”

With newfound generosity the ornaments chimed in,
“At Christmas time we shouldn’t fuss,
Let Eddie’s Star be one of us!
When love is in each little heart,
We’ll try our best to do our part.”

Even at that Star couldn’t help but frown, “Oh dear. Oh, me. What if they don’t like me?”

Celeste, ever wise and gracious, reassured them all, “I think the folks will like you. Eddie made you with love,” then she added, “and to make sure they find the right place for you on the tree, I’m leaving.”

“Oh, Celeste!” they all objected. “Where are you going?”

“Just to Eddie’s room. I’d like to stand next to the manger scene on his dresser.”

“Well, hurry then! Look what time it is!” the soldier ordered in crisp tones. “Quick, everyone! Take your places!”

Obediently all the ornaments hurried to line up. But as they did Celeste caught one dainty foot in the lacy hem of her silk gown, tripped and fell. The breaking sound startled no one, for the privileged hour of life had passed. From the grandfather clock had come one solitary “Bong!”

Everyone was now asleep. The house was still, the dark was deep. All must wait for morning light to see if things will turn out right.

Outside, the black velvet sky sparkled with sequins. An enormous moon lingered on the horizon riding an icy-cold breeze. Deep mounds of snow blanketed the countryside.

Hours passed, yet the interlude was a mere breath in the vast Scheme of Life. Finally the light of early dawn infused soft pastels across the gray landscape.

And now the clock at the Anderson house bongs six times. Would you believe it? Young Eddie’s voice is the first to be heard. What remarkable powers these youngsters have, to rebound from a half-night’s sleep so easily.

“Come on.”

Doesn’t that sound like boys you know? At any rate, Eddie soon appears in the living room doorway, calling back over his shoulder, “Let’s decorate the tree. You promised!”

“Hey, what about those waffles I wanted for breakfast? What’s a poor starving guy to do?” Father’s distant voice was heard to complain good-naturedly.

The anticipation of the morning dissolved into sudden disbelief.

“Oh, no! The Christmas tree angel is broken!” Eddie ran to her side in distress. The golden locks tumbled about her head, which was severed from the rest of her body. A tiny rhinestone tiara lay near by.

Mother in plaid robe and furry slippers was first to enter, followed by Father, carrying young Chrissy who was squirming to get down.

Eddie cast an accusing eye at his young sister, but Mother caught the glance and interjected, “No, Chrissy has not been downstairs until just now. I’m sure of it.”

“Too bad. Now what can we put on the top of the tree?” Father remarked as he let his little daughter slide from his arms to the couch.

“Why, here’s a star!” Mother smiled.

“Surprise! I made it. Do you like it?” Eddie beamed.

“Sure do!” Father moved over to take a closer look at the star. Then he motioned to the broken angel. “Eddie, bring me the glue. Maybe we can patch up the angel, but I don’t think it will light up anymore.”

Of course, it was Eddie who solved the problem. “Hey, I could put the angel in the manger scene.”

“Well, then it’s settled,” Mother agreed. “We’ll put Eddie’s star on the top of the tree.”

So it was that peace settled on the Anderson home in more ways than the humans could detect. The Chosen Ones, too, celebrated Christmas that year with the true spirit of generosity. Star’s happiness knew no bounds. And, little Celeste on the dresser meditated on the joy that comes when the creation reflects the love of its Creator.

Later that afternoon, after a flurry of adventure outside in the snow, Eddie sat at his writing desk upstairs and composed a fitting piece to recite for his grandparents on Christmas Eve.

Looking over his shoulder we see these words:

“Long ago on one dark night
A special star shone very bright.
It showed the way to a manger bed
Where Baby Jesus laid his head.

Now Eddie’s star upon the tree
Will be for everyone to see . . . "

Mother, entering with a steaming cup of hot cocoa topped with a molten marshmallow, read the poem and added the finishing touch,

“Reminding those who come to call,
Love is the greatest gift of all.”

* * *

This children's story was written for the third grade students at Sunnyslope Elementary School.  First I wrote it as a short poem about Eddie and his Star, then I wrote it as a play and my students performed it in the auditorium.  Eventually, I made it into a longer story, printed copies for the children, with space for their original art work.  The story lends itself to some good discussion, as well as good illustration.