Charlie’s Room: The Family Tree

“But I don’t want to take down the Christmas tree,” Charlie whined. He flopped onto the couch. “If I wake up in the night and need a drink of water, it’s like a giant nightlight.”

“It’s never really all that dark at night. There’s a streetlight that shines through the windows brightly enough to see by,” Isaac pointed out. He set down the tub for the ornaments.

Charlie reached out a leg and kicked at the tub. It was just out of reach. “But why do we have to take down the tree? We put it up a month before Christmas, so it makes sense to keep it up a month after.”

“If it’s always up, it’s not as special anymore. We’ll get used to it and stop noticing it.” Isaac started putting ornaments into the box.

“Not if it’s just an extra month. Besides, aren’t we supposed to keep the spirit of Christmas all year or something? But the Christmas spirit is still special.” Charlie scooted down until he was laying on the couch cushion. He reached out a foot and his toes just touched the box. He gave it a little shove with his toes.

Isaac pulled the box over two inches so that Charlie couldn’t reach any more. He chuckled as Charlie scooted down further so that his back was only half on the couch. “That’s different. Feelings and memories aren’t as easy to forget or ignore.” He pulled the box over again and put a few more ornaments in it.

Charlie clambered over to the box, reached in, and pulled out an ornament. “Not the sheep! That’s my favorite. Put it in last so that it’s the first on on the tree.” He handed the little woolly sheep to Isaac.

“I can do that.” Isaac put the sheep higher up on the tree, by the star.

Charlie watched him place the sheep, then stood up and reached into the branches. “Look! We missed a candy cane. It was easy to see if you were looking in the right place.” He retreated to the couch with the candy. “We could take down the Christmas decorations and make it a holiday tree. We can put hearts and chocolate on it for Valentine’s day, and eggs and bunnies and stuff for Easter…”

“But we have other decorations for those holidays.” Isaac took down the star, and then the sheep.

“I guess so.” Charlie crunched thoughtfully on his candy cane. “I’m still sad to see it go. I waited and waited and waited for Christmas, and then, boom! It was over. It doesn’t seem fair.”

“Holidays are like that. A lot of things are. That’s why it’s good that there’s always something to look forward to.”

“Like what? Valentine’s and Easter? But those are so far away.” Charlie slumped back into the couch.

“Like reading the next chapter in our story at night. Or going through the seed catalogs and planning the garden. Or playing a good game of Scrabble with your dad.” Isaac closed the ornament box and unplugged the tree. The lights went off.

“But those are all normal things.” Charlie tried to kick the box again. It was too far away.

“Do they make you happy?” Isaac began to take apart the tree and put it in its box.

“I like Clue better, but yeah. I guess so.” He finished his candy cane and crumpled up the wrapper.

Isaac put the lid on the tree box and smiled. “Then they’re things to look forward to. Go throw that in the trash, and get the colored pencils and some paper while I put these away. When I get back, we can draw a family tree.”

“What’s that?”

“You’ll see.”

When Isaac returned, Charlie was waiting with the colored pencils and some paper. “Is a family tree like your family’s favorite tree? Or does it have ornaments that have something to do with your family?”

“Not really. Look. Here, I’ll draw a line and write Grandma and Grandpa’s names. My mom and dad. Then I’ll add my brother and me as branches. I’ll add Mom’s name next to mine on my branch. Now look, you’re a little branch that grows off of that one.” Isaac wrote Charlie’s name on the newest branch.

“It’s not much of a tree, is it?” Charlie took the page and held it out at arm’s length.

“If you start further back, you have lots more branches.”

Charlie put the paper down and nodded. “I guess that makes sense. So how do we find names for further back?”

“I have a larger family tree that my Mom sent me a long time ago. It’s in my desk drawer.” Isaac went and got the family tree.

“That looks like a tree. Look at all the branches. Do I know any of them?” Charlie looked through the tree for a familiar name. “Oh, there’s Cousin Reginald. I guess we really are related, huh?” His fingers traced the branches as he found the connection.

“I thought we could copy the tree and use different colors to make it pretty. We could hang it on the side of the bookshelf as a not-holiday decoration.”

Charlie pulled out a green colored pencil. “That sounds fun. Tell me about some of the people on our family tree. There’s a lot of them I don’t know. I should know more about them if they’re our family, right?”