Category Archives: writing

What’s Cooking?

Writing is like cooking. It looks so easy and fun when somebody else is doing it, but is a total freaking mess and full of traps when I go at it on my own. Reading a book primes my literary pump the same way watching a cooking show gets me thinking “chef’s hat,” inspiring all kinds of confidence and energy because I see the beautifully produced final product, not the labor, the re-writes or the re-takes (when the plot twist or souffle implodes.) By the time I start bleeding, because knives and other sharp  utensils really aren’t my thing, or by the time I am painfully knotted in a narrative thread, it is too late to completely turn back. Sure, I could toss the mess in the garbage, clean off the countertops and call for pizza. I could close without saving and pull out a new book to read. But the ghost of the unfinished dish or story will haunt me, prodding me to try again. “Come back!!” it will wail in a ghostly voice, and, my friends, I need no more voices in my head telling me to do anything. It is noisy and crowded in there as it is. When I see it through to the end, even if I don’t particularly care for the result (and my assorted Philistines have nothing favorable to say,) I can still feel some satisfaction, or at least humorous resignation toward the experience. Maybe it wasn’t a success, but it was progress.

Writing, cooking, academic performance, or even living: it is harder than it looks. Obstacles arise. Natural ability only takes you so far and the rest is work and perseverance. Sigh. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a mess in my kitchen I need to attend to.

To Err is Human, to Post is Feline.

In 2002, when I read the writing on the wall, I knew one of two things was going to happen. Either I was going to drive my growing sons crazy chasing after them and wailing, “Hug me! Why won’t you cuddle anymore?” or I was going to get a kitten and transfer all my neediness onto it. No-brainer. Mr. Wordtabulous has always been miffed that he was not consulted, only informed of the cat acquisition, but to my memory I have only brought three major things into our home without discussing it with him: garage sale dining room table (epic win,) garage sale loveseat/hide-a-bed (epic fail) and Catabulous (epic win, with allowances for noise, midnight bed stomping and litterbox maintenance.)

Having neglected my blog lately, I was racking my brain for a topic to post on (yes, preposition, I know) and all I could think of was how adorable my cat is. One of my simple but guilty pleasures is looking at pictures and videos of cats online. They are funny, and often beautiful, and sweet. I like how people caption the photos. I am amused when people dress their cats, although that is going a bit far. The thing is, people LOVE cat pics and they get a LOT of hits. So “Cynical me” posed a question to “Deer-In-The-Headlights me” (she is my default–the one who is wandering around taking everything in and hoping to make sense of it all before the screeching crash.)

Cynical: Would you ever write a cat blog?

DITH: What do you mean, like a single post, or a whole, like, themed blog?

Cynical: Don’t play coy with me. Would you ever start a blog strictly around cat images, cat care, and cat love? Just to get the hits?

DITH: Let me think. I do really love my cat. If I did start such a blog, it wouldn’t be just for the hits.

Cynical: Oh, please.

DITH: Stop it. I don’t think I have enough material.

Cynical: That isn’t an answer. And seriously? About a fourth of your posts have something to do with a cat anyway. You aren’t far off from being a cat blog. As for material, what did you just buy?

DITH: A leash. For my cat.

Cynical: And if we looked in your photo gallery on your phone, what would we find?

DITH: Cat photos…lots of them. But he’s very photogenic! And everyone else I take pictures of look like they’re in pain!

Cynical: So you have the material, you have the obsessive interest, and you have the attention-seeking personality that would dangle tags like “cat,” “cute,” “funny,” and “playful,” with the objective of luring people in just to raise your stats. Why don’t you start taking pictures of your cat next to photos of movie stars, or of him watching trailers of new release movies so you can work those into your tags, too?

DITH: I don’t like your tone. And I don’t think people who write cat blogs are only interested in hits, they are sharing the joy of cats.

Cynical: Now you are just pandering to the cat bloggers.

DITH: Wow, you’re mean. Look, the answer is no. I wouldn’t write a cat blog just for the hits. Also, I don’t have the attention span for a single topic and I lack commitment. That is why my blog is the whack-a-doodle mishmash that it is. I write what I want to (yes, yes, PREPOSITION.) Besides, if I were really cynical, I’d write about Walk Off the Earth T-shirts and local news anchors because according to my stats THAT is where the action is.

That being said, here is a funny picture of my cat sitting on top of the novel A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. If only he was wearing my WOTE t-shirt and sitting on Leah McLean’s (from KSTP) lap.

A Note To Those Who Stop In

I am not trying to blow up my own blog or anything, but for those of you who blog here, there or anywhere, do you ever get the feeling some bloggers “like” your posts  just to get your attention and lure you to their site? And then their site is nothing more than the reproduction of other people’s posts? Or  images from other sites? I don’t want to be overly harsh, here. I mean, some of these images are clever and funny and I am glad I saw them, but they weren’t original to the person who posted them, and it was hard to figure out where they originated…which I am sure was a total accident. One time? (At band camp? sorry–I just heard that in my head.) I posted on my blog and within ten literal seconds of uploading my post I got a “like” from another blogger? It was a longish post, one that would be hard to even read in under a minute, let alone ten seconds. It was pretty good though, don’t get me wrong. Totally “like”able. Just maybe not that fast?

When I first started blogging, oh so many months ago, I was just a teensy bit raging against the void. I was having some trouble with pitching a manuscript to agents and publishers, and struggling with my voice and how tiny it sounds in the vacuum outside my head. I found friendship here and built some confidence. I stepped wrong a time or two, and owned it. The world didn’t shatter. I discovered others struggling with some of the same and some different issues and I found myself caring about them and what they have to say. In this time I have also been slammed with spam, and culled through tag-trawling in a most cynical way. I have built a following of real people, spambots and the hapless google searchers seeking information on the musical group “Walk Off The Earth” (yes, I totally love you kids and you can sleep on my couches if you come through town–you kids in the band, not the searchers, sorry,) and the ones who want to know what’s the latest on KARE 11 news anchor Rena Sarigianopoulos (I know, she’s awesome, I love her too, but I have nothing further on her since the Home & Garden Show.)  So speaking in terms of gross vs. net, I have increased my gross following. Do I have more net readers? If I do, what does that, exactly, signify?

Some of us write for attention. Okay, all of us here write for attention. If we weren’t, we’d be writing in a journal and it would never occur to us to “put it all out there” where anyone can see. Some of us write for the possibility of being discovered, hoping someone will find us on our counter stool at the soda fountain and say, “Hey, kid, I like your style! Why don’t you audition for a role with us? We’ll make you a big star!” It could happen. I would be swimming in my lottery millions, statistically speaking, before it does, but it has happened. Some of us simply write trying to make that ephemeral connection, thought to thought. The connection where something we think, then write, hits another’s neurons like the 4 ball into the side pocket, when just a second before the 4 ball was perfectly stationery there on the green felt. This next statement is important. We. Never. Touch. Each. Other. Not physically. Google it. It has to do with electrons and electromagnetic fields and the kind of stuff that simultaneously attracts and repels (like my brain and physics,) but we never never physically touch anything or anyone. But an idea can be transmitted from one brain to another and a connection made in that transmission. And that…that is what brings me back time and again to the words and the page and the endless frustration and joy that is writing.

So to all you real people out there, the ones who are here on purpose and the ones that just want to know if Leah McLean from KSTP 5 is pregnant (yes, she is, send her a note with your best wishes) and even the ones who are hoping I will click on your link to see  your plagiarized images or your digital cookie death traps, I want to say thank you. Thank you for checking in. Thank you for letting me know you are there. I hope you find what you are looking for, or at least something worthwhile. I hope you find a connection in this world and that it warms your soul, as you have mine. Thank you.

Excuse My Mouth

I have a habit that mortifies Mr. Wordtabulous. I fully admit to it and can only hope he is wrong about how  noticeable and offensive it is to others. Because I can’t help it. And I am not alone. Maybe you, too, share this annoying and socially repulsive aberration: Sympathetic Elocution. In other words, the involuntary mimicking of someone’s accent, verbal rhythms, and intonation when one is in conversation. I do it all the time. I spent most of my life until my mid-twenties in rural South Dakota and Minnesota, where we have our own small variations, including cowboy twang and Norwegian lilt, but there isn’t a lot to try on in terms of exotic audibles. I wasn’t really aware of doing it until my husband pointed it out in a taxi from the airport to our hotel in Rome on our first international trip. I was answering a question our cabdriver asked, and was trying to keep it simple, since he was speaking somewhat broken English with a considerable accent. I know he probably understood a lot more English than he was comfortable speaking but I was trying to be considerate.  “Why are you talking like that?” hissed Mr. W in my ear. “Like what?” I asked. “You sound like you’re making fun of the way he talks,” he returned, actually turning a little pink with embarrassment. I was astounded. I wasn’t doing the thing where I was over-enunciating, or using volume to make up for shared language, but there I was anyway, an ugly American. I became  self-conscious, but still got caught doing it.

In Mexico, in Germany and Austria (where at least I had some language skills) and at home, where I had friendships with people from Rwanda and Sudan, my husband continued to shake his head when listening to me deep in stilted conversation and using words that sounded perfect spilling off others’ lips but clearly sounded odd on mine, at least to him. Not long ago, after spending some hours with a woman about half my age, I heard it myself: a slightly nasal drawl with a questioning lift at the end of sentences where none was needed. I had picked up a hint of Kim Kardashian via  my younger friend. I vowed to be more disciplined.  I would not be seduced into affecting other people’s speech patterns, consciously or unconsciously, regardless of how interesting or beautiful or at least different I found them. I am myself, after all, why wouldn’t that be enough?

I was at work recently, listening to a colleague finish up a call to Tennessee.  She hung up the phone and exclaimed, “Southern people’s accents are so addicting! I was talking to that man, and I kept catching myself starting to talk like him.” I was delighted. “You TOO?” Sympatico. What a relief. Ignominy loves company. But seriously, is the crime an innocent verbal quirk, or the embarrassment it causes myself and others? Because I am not so embarrassed…until the day I get caught on tape, then I will wither with humiliation. Actually, just imagining that gives me the armpit prickles of  mortification. (That’s NOT just me; I know at least one other person, not related to me, who gets those.)

I do it here, too. I can’t blog after reading anyone else’s work or I’ll sound more like them than myself. If I try to write after reading Lucy’s Football, for example, I am all CAPS and attempted hysterical, confrontational, witty zigs and zags and cascading asides. When the wuc  posted (and her thing is more dark poetry and rated M for mature smackdown satirical descriptions of her life,) my comments would come out like this (in response to a bad relationship twist and it’s purported cause of her lack of mojo,) “I am frequently reminded that the seismic shifts of life that leave us unbalanced is material. I also believe that mojo is like a slow-motion heartbeat, expanding toward the brilliant, then contracting like a fist, only to unfold again. The dog days are over, wuc…” And I kind of love that, but while it’s me, it is more like me on my third tequila shot at 1:00 in the afternoon, not me everyday. And after reading Hot Off The Wire, my prose gets tighter and with a particular highly focused energy that is hard to describe but easy to identify. I can always tell when I have Kelly in my head.

Overall, I tend to think of it as an emulation, sort of an “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” I enjoy the people I speak with, whose verbal vibes I inadvertently copy. I HOPE I wouldn’t slip into a writing style I didn’t love. So, if you and I ever get to chatting in the verbal or written sense, and you hear me starting to sound a little more like you, please, please don’t be offended. I would never make fun of you. (For sure not to your face, because that is rude.) I just dig you, and am feeling the connection. I promise to respect our differences and keep it real.

Midnight Muse and the Aftermath

If you have been hanging with me for awhile, you have witnessed my complaints about my cat, who waits until we are cozy in our bed to jump up and start a discussion, which tends to involve some pacing (on Catabulous’ part) and a lot of position changes (on everyone’s part.) Until finally we (I) decide it is worth it to get out of the warm covers and secure the cat in the basement with as much self-control as I can muster. Perversely, I sometimes think this is what he wants, like a tired and cranky toddler throwing a fit because he is begging to be put to bed. Put yourself in the basement, I try to tell him. But the language barrier, you see my problem. I am going a little farther with this metaphor than I need to, but I am tired. Last night, my problem wasn’t the cat, who was confined to the basement BEFORE we got into bed (ha HA!) Last night, after about an hour and half of sleep to take the edge off the bone-grating weariness I had acquired throughout the day, my eyelids fluttered open and somebody else wanted to start a discussion. My muse.

Stop looking at me like that. The muse is REAL. If you don’t have a muse that literally speaks to you, you are probably imagining me posing theatrically, one hand to my heart and the other to the ether, as a toga draped nymph whispers in my ear. I would LOVE to set up a shot like that, but I have unbelievable bedhead today and all the little girls in my neighborhood that I might dress in a toga for the image are at school right now. The more I think about it, the more I want to do it. Good LORD, sleep deprivation is the death of impulse control. If I decide to do the picture, I’ll update the post later. Moving on. So yeah, as I was saying, the muse is REAL. I will not disparage her because to do so seems to me to be the height of stupidity, but she is kind of…persistent? And…loud? One random thought leads to a phrase, which gets reworked and reworked until another phrase or two is formed. Then maybe a sentence that is relevant but not precisely connected. Then, I start to worry that I am going to lose the thread of what I am putting together, because my memory and attention span are really not all that good, but this line of thinking is becoming very interesting, almost brilliant. I also realize that I am getting farther and farther from sleep, so I grab for the assortment of notebooks and post-it pads that I keep on my bedside table, to get the high points written down so I can let the rest go and slip back into blessed slumber. But I have no pens. Ever. Maybe a pencil too dull to use. I dither. Will I remember in the morning? Will I kick myself for not writing it all down? Experience says ‘No’ and ‘Yes.’

Last night, for some reason, I went into our bathroom, thinking maybe there might be a pen in there, even though I know better, and  considered digging out my eyeliner pencil for a quick note, but I was making a lot of noise walking around and crashing into things already, which was stressing me out. More and more awake. I gave up and groped my way into the guest room, running into the hollow core door with a resonant “donk!” as I did, then switched on the light and finally made three notes for a post on music. Good for me! Back to bed. But my muse was not done with me. Snatches of  songs chased around in my head, particularly one from my childhood, one I suspected was the key to shutting the party down. I slumped with resignation, then flipped back the covers and grabbed a pillow and Grandma’s quilt I keep nearby for this kind of night. I crept through my nighttime house and collected my iPod, which I set to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #14 in C Sharp Minor, also known as “Moonlight Sonata.” It is a song I heard my mother and both my older and younger sisters play on the piano innumerable times as I grew up. In fact, during a homesick time in college I asked my younger sister to tape record herself practicing the piano so I could listen when I felt blue, and this was one of the songs she played. During one section of repetitive, quiet lines her voice is recorded on the tape saying, “Wake up, Lynnette,” which always made me laugh. I still listen for that strain. It is the kind of song that requires my full attention, and evokes more emotion than imagery, which quiets my brain. I listened to it three times before my muse agreed we were through for the night and slipped off to wherever she goes. Which is what I think she was looking for all along. Perhaps she was tired and cranky and needed me to play a little bedtime music; all the rest was just a setup, her version of my cat’s pacing and mrrowing for my attention. I looked at my notes this morning (had 100% forgotten what I’d written down,) and they aren’t bad, but in daylight they lack the brilliance I had hoped for. I think the best I can hope for is that if this continues, my sleep-deprived altered consciousness might eventually come up with something really interesting. For now, I must go and do something about this hair.

Moonlight Sonata:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT7_IZPHHb0

Related Post: A Cat-Tabulous Christmas

Related Post: When Time Stops: Moonlit Moment

When Time Stops, Moonlit Moment

Words streaming through my brain, linking, twisting, and rejoining—urgently and repeatedly, drove me from my bed at 4:38 this morning. Intent upon capturing some and exorcising others, I slunk down the stairs to find my west facing living room aglow in moonlight. I stopped, as did the words in my head. As much as I admire sunrises and sunsets in all their varying colorful glamour, the moon exerts a pull on my heart as of tides. Her cool monochromatic sublimity loosens my grip on the fevered daytime strivings that have followed me into the night. Stop now. See. Breathe.

Blogger Awards-Taking a Stand

At the risk of revealing myself as a HORRIBLE person (said with a gutteral Germanic emphasis on the H and a rolling of the r’s,) and alienating everyone who has done or said anything nice to me, can I just say, “Enough with the blogger awards already?” I don’t know what’s worse, scrolling through a post to find out I didn’t win the nomination of a blogger I love or that I did. Not being nominated is like being the girl left out of the slumber party invite (why doesn’t she like me? what is wrong with me? I bet she invited that other girl because she has a pool.) Being nominated is like winning a spot in a pyramid scheme (oh boy, now I’ve got to find a bunch of blogs I haven’t already touted, make sure they meet some imaginary level of fabulosity and inflict  upon them this cycle of crazy.) If it seems that I am impossible to please, let me tell you that this is to some extent true, which only makes it more difficult to find blogs I like. I am REALLY picky. And arbitrary. I reject some blogs because too many other people already like them. And, I am one of those bloggers that really reads the posts. I read them, and I think about them and I comment on a lot of them. Because I am all about the relationships. Which is TIME-CONSUMING. And probably a little compulsive. Whatever, I have no time to deal with my mental health issues because of the aforementioned blogging. Ultimately every single blogger will win an award and I say, why wait for that to happen? Can we not all agree that every one of us deserves an award for getting one of these things up and running, having the confidence to say something out into the world that anybody else (including trolls) can see and possibly harsh on, and going forth and seeking inspiration, connection and relationships in the blogosphere? Even the porn people? Thank you, those who nominate me, but if you love it, share the post. That is what I will be doing.

List of My Best New Things from 2011, and a Look Ahead to 2012

All in all, 2011 was an amazing year. I have here a short (by no means complete) list of things that made this year special to me.

Honda CR-V: Yes, I still love my car and am SO happy I am no longer driving the truck. However, I think the better gas mileage I get is being offset by the fact that I no longer try to avoid driving, which is not very environmentally conscious of me. In 2012, I will try to respect my environment by riding my bike more for quick little trips. I will shoot for at least one trip by bike per week,  beginning when the temps hit 55+ degrees again.

Manuscript Submission: As my dad was overly fond of saying about anything unpleasant (hard work, unimaginable filth to be waded through, mind-numbing tedium,) “It’s good for you! It builds character!” Submitting manuscripts has been really good for me. It turns out that rejection didn’t destroy me after all. Finding agents to submit to, and sending queries out was so stressful I literally shook. All the craziest voices in my head rose in a chorus to tell me what a disaster the whole enterprise would turn out to be. I was on the verge of a collapse, and then, guess what? I got some form letters that said “not for us” and it was no big deal. I propose that in 2012, I will shoot for three times as many rejections for Hollywood University, and maybe a bunch for Sleepers as well.

Novel Revision: Speaking of Sleepers, I am really happy that I still want to work on that manuscript. I didn’t do a lot with it in 2011, but I know now that it is standing the test of time, at least with me. I am in LOVE with most of what I do, when I am doing it, but after I’ve worked on a small piece even 12 hours of  downtime between the writing and the re-reading is illuminating. Once the heat and energy dies down, I find a lot of what I’ve written to be boring and/or embarrassing. Some of it is salvageable, some is not. I still love Sleepers, although there are some kinks to work out and 2012 is the year, baby!

She Said Writer’s Retreats: So much fun! Friendship and photography and technology and old haunts and haunted houses and therapeutic conversation and giggles and shopping. And wine and food. Oh, and writing–I said that, right? More in 2012, please!

Coffee: It isn’t like I had never had coffee before, but my interest in it certainly grew this year. In 2011, coffee was demonstrated to diminish the occurrence of depression in women and prostate cancer in men. I also got a good coffeemaker. Coffee makes me feel smart and lively (and do stupid things faster with more energy!)  I still love tea and will continue to drink that occasionally, but I think 2012 will see me embracing the bean buzz with both arms.

Blogging:  Wordtabulous has been a superfun adventure. I’ve met people, shared some info, registered some opinions, figured out some things, had some meltdowns, and hopefully given cause for a chuckle or a “Yeah, sister!” once in awhile. I have also had a riot finding and following other blogs which have expanded my world quite a bit. Thank you wordpress, and bloggers and followers (and especially you commenters and “likers”–there is a special place in my heart for you!) I hope 2012 sees continued blogging, perhaps with more focus and punch (or not, as the shotgun approach seems to be my natural inclination.) I hope to see more of you, dear reader! Thanks for dropping in, and all the best to you and yours in the New Year!

 

Taking The Pulpit

When I was in my teens, a minor revolution occurred in our small town when our Methodist Church got a female minister. Her name was Judy, and she was the first minister I would know by her first name, separate from the words Reverend and a last name. I, being an angry feminist from my earliest years, was enthusiastic about the change. It was about time a woman came in and showed everyone that we were just as capable getting this job done as the men. Judy surprised me by being earthy and well, a little weird. She laughed a lot and comported herself  differently than the ministers I’d been used to, who had always seemed to be kind of big on the issue of dignity. She also had some kind of unique ideas about worship and God. If I found Judy to be a little unconventional, I can’t even imagine the uproar she caused among the adult congregation, although I did hear a few conversations between my parents on the subject. I don’t remember what they said, just that I was surprised that “the preacher” was a topic. Like most Methodist pastors of that time and place, Judy was with our church for a few years, then transferred elsewhere. Change is hard on a congregation, and maybe the frequent changes of leadership is part of what makes them hold so tightly to a certain way of doing things as a way to cement identity.

Through Goodreads, I became interested in a book entitled Sea Level, by Nancy Kilgore. Kilgore writes of a woman, Brigid, taking the pulpit of a Methodist church in a small Virginia coastal community. It is her first appointment as a pastor and their first experience with a woman in the role. What ensues is the good, the bad and the ugly on every level imaginable. Kilgore explores the sometimes hair-raising politics and cultural attitudes from the perspectives of various members of the congregation and the minister and her family. There is also a plotline involving  Mary, an artist more attuned to ideas of the Goddess, born and raised in the community but long ago fled to New York City, who returns to connect with her roots and to try to integrate them with her free-thinking and independent way of life. Mary and Brigid become friends and allies in a place where many demand both of them sit down and shut up. There are some differences, but I strongly suspect that Judy would have recognized Sea Level as a variation of her story of church leadership, ostracism, changing times and hopefully, support in my hometown. One of the biggest lessons I take from Sea Level is that being right and feeling certain don’t always come as a package.  In the book, as in life, there are no tidy endings, but there is a sense of assurance that persistence pays off, that living right and trying hard will, most of the time, see you through.

See Goodreads for my full review of Sea Level. Sea Level is available from Amazon.com or from your local bookstore (may need to order it,) and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

A Christmas Tree Original

I wrote this story in December, 1986, as a college student working an overnight shift where my main responsibility was to stay awake in case something happened. This story came to me full-blown, like a bolt from heaven, and I have always thought of it as my Christmas present from God. I’ve re-written it several times over the years, but always liked the original the best, and now I’d like to share it with you. If you like it, or know somebody who would, invite them to come read it here. Merry Christmas!

 The First Christmas Tree

A smile formed on Tommy’s mother’s face as his wide brown eyes looked to her from the darkness of his bedroom. She leaned in a bit farther, the hallway light casting a halo around her body.

“You’re not asleep,” she pointed out.

“Nope,” he agreed.

“Somethin’ wrong?” She asked, entering the room, and pausing to turn on the choo-choo nightlight as she did.

“No. Mom, would you tell me a story? Please?”

“A story? What kind of a story?”

“A Christmas story.”

“Ohhhh.” Christmas. The whole day had been full of Christmas preparations, she reflected as she seated herself on her son’s bed and gazed out the window at the snowswept yard. The dusty boxes had been unpacked and the year-round decorations taken down to be replaced by paper poinsettias, Santa faces, the Nativity scene, and the tree, of course. The tree. Her eyes fell upon the fir tree in the yard, its branches tossing in the cold night wind, and she remembered the story she’d first heard as a girl only a little older than Tommy, in a different bedroom in the same house, so many years ago. Still watching the tree outside, she took up the story, remembering it as if she’d heard it only yesterday, and hearing, not her own voice, but her grandmother’s, relating the much-loved words.

“Once upon a time many, many years ago, (how many? More than you can count, love,) there was a great forest on the outskirts of a city. One day, a beautiful, enormous star appeared above the city. This was so amazing that even the trees paused in their great, slow thoughts to wonder at the meaning of it. The taller trees pulled back their branches to let the smaller trees gaze upon the star and one young fir, as the starlight shone upon him, felt its glow sink right into his tender wooden heart.

“In the weeks that passed, many of the forest animals and trees decided they knew the star meant one thing or another, or nothing at all, and would argue about it. As they grew used to its presences, most forgot about it altogether. But not the little fir. He, of all the trees and animals in the forest, still wondered at the star. When others found out about his continuing awe, they looked down upon him and sighed. They reminded him that he was only a very ordinary young tree, and had no business wondering about stars and such things. But the little fir knew deep inside that the star meant something important and he stood at attention, day and night, joyfully waiting for “IT.”

“One night not long afterward, the wind was strangely quiet, and the air felt tingly. While others mused that a storm must be coming on, the little tree stood a little straighter, sure that this night would reveal to the world the meaning of the star. The night wore on and a small group of shepherds passed through the forest, talking to each other in hushed but excited voices. A small rabbit nestled by the young fir’s trunk lifted an ear curiously and called out to a lamb being carried by one of the shepherds in creature talk to find out the cause of the excitement. The lamb replied that a sky full of angels had appeared to them to announce that the God of All had sent his son, the Prince of Peace, to be savior to the world. Furthermore, the lamb said the savior had come to the earth that night in the form of a human baby, and was now lying in a stable on the outskirts of the city.

“Most of the great trees and forest creatures were filled with mirth by the lamb’s unbelievable story of a savior in a stable. The little fir tree, however, knew to the tips of his needles that this was what he had been waiting for, that the miracle had arrived. With all his heart he made one prayerful wish, “Oh, if only I could see this baby!”

An angel appeared next to the young fir. “You wish to see the Prince?” the angel whispered.

“Oh, yes! We do!” cried the little tree.

The angel laughed, “Well then, you are all invited!” and with a wave of an arm, the angel disappeared. Instantly, the entire forest was freed from the earth and with a mighty whoosh was swept off to the stable under the star. The little fir tried to keep up but found he had a hard time. In the back of his mind he remembered how ordinary the others kept telling him he was. He continued going the best that he could, but arrived among the last of the trees. His poor heart nearly broke when he saw all the others ahead of him, but he straightened his trunk and fluffed out his branches, and prepared to wait. He wondered if there would be any way that he would get to the front before the magic was over.

Suddenly the angel reappeared. “Where have you been?” the angel cried, “We’ve all been waiting for you!”

“M-m-me?” stammered the tree.

“Oh little tree, you are the most faithful of them all!” and with a laugh and a wave of a wing, stars dove from the heavens to snuggle in the young fir’s branches and moonbeams hurried close to dance on his boughs. This is how the young fir appeared to the baby Prince, who gazed upon him with eyes full of love. The young fir’s heart swelled with such happiness that he wept resin tears of joy, which fell to the floor and hardened instantly into amber beads. A shepherd, seeing them, bowed to the young fir, then knelt and scooped the beads up and gave them to the holy child’s blessed young mother, who nodded her thanks to the little tree.

“The young fir lived in joy for the rest of his long life, but the story does not end there. The shepherds remembered the role a small tree played that holy night, and passed the story on. And that, some say, is why we have Christmas trees and decorate them, and why gifts are found beneath them on Christmas morning.”

Tommy’s mother’s voice trailed off as she looked down at her sleeping son. She smiled and wondered how long he had been out, and how much of the story she had shared only with herself. Then, carefully, she slipped from the room and pulled the door silently shut.