From the Children’s Friend, December 1950 –
A Star in the Tree Top
By Sara O. Moss
There had never been such a beautiful Christmas tree in the little mining town before. Kim was sure of that. With its sparkling ornaments, its radiant lights, and the star in the tree-top, Kim could hardly wait to tell someone. It had all come about so suddenly. He was playing in the narrow street by his home, when Miss Kennedy, who lived next door and up a little on the side hill, called excitedly, “Want a Christmas tree, Kim?” He had hurried up to her house.
“You might just as well have my tree,” she said as he came in, and went on putting things in a traveling bag. “Father and I just decided to go to California for the holidays,” she continued. “You can shove it right through those big French doors and out onto the veranda, where you can leave it till you get some help to move it.”
It took about five minutes to move the tree. Miss Kennedy and her father waved good-by to Kim, who stood too bewildered to do anything. He could only gaze in wonder at the gorgeous tree before him – the tree that was all his own. In all the ten years of his life, he had wanted a Christmas tree, but Mom was always too busy at the grocery store where she worked for Mr. Anderson. She worked long into the night each Christmas Eve. Tonight it would be the same. Christmas didn’t mean anything to Mom, in her busy life.
Reluctantly, Kim left the Kennedy veranda where the tree stood in the cold, frosty air. He hurried at breakneck speed down the winding, narrow street, toward Anderson’s store. He had to tell someone. He would tell Mom.
He approached his mother, hesitantly. Suppose she didn’t want the tree in the house. Kim hurried to get the news over with.
Mrs. Winkler was busy at the notion counter. Kim blurted out the news as fast as he could, just as his Mother picked up a spool of thread for a customer. She opened her eyes and mouth wide. “A Christmas tree!” she cried. “What on earth – Why, son, I never heard of such a thing!”
“But, Mom, it’s so beautiful!” cried Kim. ‘It’s wonderful! It’s –” Kim’s mother did not hear just how wonderful the tree was, for a man urgently wanted her to wrap up his purchase. She left Kim, before he could tell her all the details of the tree that was Miss Kennedy’s gift. He looked after the retreating figure of his mother, and disappointment flooded his heart. He left the store and sauntered on up the road again. The tree had lost some of its beauty. Christmas was again to be the same uneventful day that it had always been.
Maybe he’d better give the tree to Kathy. Kathy was Joe Barnes’ little sister, aged seven. She had broken her leg and had to stay in bed. Kim knew that Kathy wanted a Christmas tree more than anything in the world. She spent her days in bed, wishing and worrying her mother, who was a widow, with five children to support. The Barnes were poor, but who wasn’t, in the little town since the mine shut down. This was one year that Christmas trees were a real luxury.
“I’ll give it to Kathy,” concluded Kim, once more on the veranda, gazing up at the tree. “It wouldn’t be any fun anyway, with Mom so busy.”
Kim walked slowly up the hill to Joe’s house. He found Joe at home and the mother welcomed him in. The house smelled good of simmering stew on the black coal stove, and a red candle burned on a small shelf.
“Merry Christmas!” exclaimed Mrs. Barnes. “Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas!” shouted the children, who really were merry. “Merry Christmas!” came from Kathy, too.
Kathy was propped up in her little bed by the window, her blonde head resting against many pillows. Her eyes were large and beautifully blue as she smiled up at Kim’s serious face.
“Michael won’t believe that my Christmas star is going to bring us all a beautiful tree,” said Kathy, “but I know it will, Kim. Every night I watch for it – the same wonderful star that led the Wise Men to the stable where Jesus was born. A long time ago I started to wish and I’ve wished every night that my star would bring us a beautiful tree.”
Michael, Joe’s nine-year-old brother, was on the verge of tears. Joe looked unhappy in his seriousness, and Kim was wondering what to say.
Then Michael broke the uncomfortable silence. “It can’t just happen,” he said. “Why didn’t you wish for something not quite so expensive, like a cake? A tree costs lots of money with lights and everything pretty to go with it!”
Tears came to Kathy’s eyes for a moment but she was insistent. “It doesn’t matter what it costs,” she said, “because the star will care for everything!”
What an imagination! That was a girl for you, but then girls always did let their imaginations run wild, thought Kim. Kathy wasn’t so different, only she was hurt, and one did feel sorry.
Michael ran from the room and Joe turned away. Kim looked toward the doorway where Kathy’s mother stood, wiping tears from her eyes. Kim reached over and rumpled the blonde head on the pillow. He pulled at the little pug nose, raised up to his face. “Keep wishing, kid,” he told Kathy with confidence. “I know that star never failed anyone yet.”
Kathy raised up on her pillow. “Oh, Kim,” she whispered, “you’re the only one that believes me!”
Kim smiled broadly. “Sure, Kathy,” he said, then steered Joe outside. He was glad he could make Kathy’s wish come true.
Outdoors, he told Joe about the tree that Miss Kennedy had given him. He tried to assure Joe that he didn’t want the tree and that it was nothing, giving it away. “Trees are silly,” he said when Joe protested. “They’re just for girls,” and he pulled Joe down the side hill to the narrow road.
He could hardly wait to show Joe now. He already imagined Kathy’s little face when she saw it.
“We’ll get Bill and Gary to help us get it up to your house. It’ll take the four of us to steady it. And think of the town,” laughed Kim; “why, they’ll imagine a parade is in town, when they see us going up the street.” The boys laughed together, and hurried at the prospect of the fun before them.
The other boys were rounded up after much hunting and waiting, and darkness was almost upon the town. The four of them hurried to the Kennedy house, and around to the veranda at the side where the tree had been placed. But now there was no tree! The boys stood still in astonishment.
“You must have dreamed it up,” said Bill.
Joe laughed without mirth. “Kathy’s imagination must have affected you, too,” he said.
“But it was here,” said Kim, “just an hour or two ago. I helped Miss Kennedy move it out here.” The house was dark and dreary inside, and the tree most certainly was not inside. Then suddenly the tree loomed before them. Bill saw it first. Looking over the fence and into Kim’s small living room, it stood, blazing with lights and sparkling ornaments. Like a thousand lights in a dark world it shone in all its splendor through the window.
Kim was over the fence first. The other boys followed. He opened the door to see his mother’s smiling face, and the house orderly and trim. Delightful odors came from the kitchen – spicy, Christmasy smells cooking on the stove. Christmas was everywhere.
“Mom!” was all Kim could say, for everything was just as he had imagined it should be. Everything like other boys and girls had on Christmas Eve – a warm, comfortable home with the air of Christmas all about; packages under the tree; Christmas smells; Mom at home, welcoming the boys; candy in a dish on the table; and red punch on a tray that Mom was already handing out with a cookie to go with the drink. A real Christmas Eve – the first in Kim’s life.
“I decided to come home as soon as you told me about the tree,” Mom was saying. “And have I been flying to get everything done. But you can’t have a Christmas tree without all the rest to go with it.” Mom was really gay and happy as a youngster, urging the boys to take more cookies. “I wanted this to be a real Christmas for you, son, and did you ever see such a gorgeous tree? I asked Mr. Reins to help me get it into the house.”
Kim couldn’t believe that all his own wishing had come true. All the Christmases that he had wished for, and now it was here. It wasn’t so different from Kathy’s wishing, only he didn’t have a wishing star. He looked at the tree. It was going to be hard to tell Mom now. She had worked so hard to make this special Christmas.
Finally he told her about Kathy. How important it was that she have the tree. That maybe there was something to this wishing business.
Mom nodded her head. She understood about Kathy. She understood too what the tree meant to Kim; but she rose quickly and pulled out the plug. The lights vanished from the tree. “Kathy must have the tree,” she said. “She must not lose sight of her star.” That was Mom for you! Swell and regular and deep inside – understanding when it came to the important things. Kim didn’t mind giving up the tree now. Not when he knew Mom really understood about Christmas.
The boys proceeded to transport their gorgeous burden, easing it carefully through the narrow door, guiding it gently down the steep steps and around the curves, then up the narrow path on the hill and finally to Joe’s house.
There was great commotion as the tree was finally put to rest on the small porch. Mrs. Barnes cried for joy at the sight of it. The smaller children were awed to silence by its splendor, and the neighborhood people came to satisfy their curiosity.
Mrs. Barnes hurried into the house, but was back in a moment. “Kathy is asleep,” she said cautiously. “I closed her door. I think you can put it up before she wakes, because she was so tired.”
It was some time before the tree was set and adjusted in the Barnes’ home, but finally the task was finished. There the tree stood in all its glory where Kathy would see it when she woke up. Her door was left open and the happy family waited tensely to see the joy on her face – joy that had come from merely wishing.
Kim did not stay. It was enough to feel the happiness inside himself, knowing that he had brought the prized gift that Kathy wanted. He hurried in the dusk, the frost freezing the air on his breath. The candles burned in the windows, and he began to look for the sight of Christmas trees in the houses, but there were so few. Yet music made up for the Christmas spirit that the trees might have supplied. Carols seemed to be coming from each house – from every street. Joy! It was everywhere!
Nearing his own home, Kim slowed down. Now he was afraid. Afraid that the tree had taken along with it the brief bit of Christmas that had come into his lonely life. He was afraid of the dark stillness that hung on the threshold, as he opened the door. Everything was as he had left it. The house was clean and smelled good of the food cooking. The packages now lay on a small table and the candy was still in the dish. The red punch stood on the tray. But Mom was not here. The house was lonely again. Kim had hoped Mom would be there, just this once in his life. But like the tree, she had come and gone. She had probably gone back to Andersen’s store.
Suddenly the door burst open. The cold rushed in with the round little figure that was Mom. She was almost hidden behind the green branches of a bare little Christmas tree. Puffing and breathing hard from her hurrying and the weight of the tree, she set it down in the middle of the floor. “It’s not very big, son,” she said, “but we can make it look right smart when we get these bubble lights on, and these ornaments. And look, here’s a star for the top. It lights up, too!” She held up a gold star for Kim to see. “You don’t think it’s too big, do you, for such a little tree?”
Kim was bursting with happiness. He took the star in his hand. “It looks just right to me, Mom,” he said; and suddenly he had a feeling that Kathy was waking up at that moment, opening her eyes to the most beautiful tree that had ever come to the little mining town. Kim wondered if the small house could hold all the joy that the tree would bring to the Barnes household. Could his own home hold all the joy and the love he felt, just having Mom make Christmas in her beautiful way.
Fitting the star to the tree top, he stepped back, as his mother held the tree. “Why, Mom,” he exclaimed. “It’s just perfect!”