“Christmas trees don’t have buttons, darling.” His grandmother laughed at Jamie. The chocolate soldier mutinied, his lower lip jutting forward. He looked very fierce.
“Yes, they does.”
He selected a bright green button from a wonderfully colored fistful of chocolate beans. Mrs. Hazeltine watched in amusement. Would it join its fellows on the tree or become another smudge upon a chubby cheek? Jamie had charge of the chocolate beans for buttons, the raspberry straps and tiny chocolate chips for the faces of the gingerbread men. He had decorated all the gingerbread men and started on the Christmas trees while his grandmother cut the stars and lambs to decorate the real tree.
“Did my mummy help you with your baking, Granny?” Jamie busied himself with the task of buttoning the Christmas trees. He didn’t look up. Mrs. Hazeltine paused briefly, studying the intent face.
“Yes, Jamie,” she answered gently. “Your mummy loved to put the faces and the buttons on the gingerbread men. Christmas was her favorite time of year.”
“Me too!” Jamie flashed an enchanting smile. “I wish Jesus could be born all over again, and I would be a shepherd and bring Him a lamb.”
Mrs. Hazeltine laughed. “Your mummy wanted almost the same thing, Jamie, only she wanted to be an angel and sing the best carol.”
Jamie fixed a button in the almost center of each star and gave each lamb a chocolate eye before the trays slid into the oven.
As they tidied the table and washed the cutters Mrs. Hazeltine remembered the night, now two years ago, when Jamie came to live with her. His mother was her only child. Jamie, not yet two years old, was the sole survivor of a motorway accident outside of town. The family were to spend Christmas with her before his father took an overseas posting.
“Granny.” His hand shook her sleeve. The insistent voice brought her back to the present day. “Granny, when will we get the Christmas tree?”
“Nunky Joe is bringing it tonight. A real live Christmas tree, just your size. Later on you can plant it in the garden like your mother did with her first Christmas tree.”
Jamie’s eyes widened. “Did she, Granny? Which was Mummy’s Christmas tree?”
Mrs. Hazeltine led him to a tall cypress at the side of the verandah. He stood for a long time looking up through the branches to the spiky crown. His next question was a surprise.
“Granny, can we decorate Mummy’s tree? If she looks down from heaven she’ll know we are thinking about her.”
Mrs. Hazeltine looked up into the tree. She blinked tears away and swallowed the lump in her throat. “We’ll ask Nunky Joe, Jamie.”
Nunky Joe brought a just-right tree for Jamie and a stool for him to stand on while he placed the angel on the top. While he strung the tinsel, hung the cookies and clipped the candles to the branches, Mrs. Hazeltine asked Nunky Joe about the tree outside.
When Nunky Joe hunkered down to admire Jamie’s tree, he said, “Jamie, at the weekend I will bring Auntie Weeza and the children and we’ll see what we can do with your Mummy’s tree.”
Auntie Weeza brought the children in the car. From the trunk they took a huge box of fairy lights and the biggest star Jamie had ever seen. Nunky Joe drove a cherry picker, and brought a few ladders. Mrs. Hazeltine cut a loaf or two of sandwiches, loaded trays with cakes and cookies, and poured a gallon of lemonade. It was a very busy day, and in the afternoon Nunky Joe took Jamie up in the cherry picker to place the star at the top of the tree.
While it grew dark they sat on the verandah, drinking cups of soup, finishing off the sandwiches and cakes. At last it was dark enough. Auntie Weeza turned off the house lights, Jamie threw the switch. The fairy lights flickered and glowed, the star blazed at the sky, the silvered tree stood alone in the dark garden. Jamie drew a deep breath. “Thank you. Thank you, everybody.” He flung his arms around his grandmother. “Thank you, Granny.” In a whisper he added, “Thank you, Jesus. On Christmas day the tree will be all yours. Please let Mummy look at her tree tonight and know that we love her and we miss her too.”
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