Petersen: Once upon a time
Once upon a time in a Very Old House in a Very Old Village in a Very Old Country where Very Old Customs still prevailed, a Very Old Couple decided to give a party to all the children of the village.
They decorated their Very Old House with festive banners and candy canes and cotton balls and all manner of glittery baubles. On the mantel above the Very Old Fireplace they placed a Very Old Santa Doll whose Santa eyes twinkled when you pushed his belly. And alongside Very Old Santa Doll, the Very Old Couple positioned a Very Old Music Box that played Jingle Bells and Rudolph and Silent Night and all manner of tunes when you turned its key.
Best of all, the Very Old Couple put up three beautiful Christmas trees. By the fireplace in the parlor stood a Very Tall Tree, a golden angel on its top-most branch nearly touching the ceiling. A glory of ornaments hung from Very Tall Tree’s branches; tinsel shimmered; tiny lights twinkled like fireflies at dusk.
In the dining room next to the sideboard where the eggnog and Christmas mincemeats and sweet cider would be arranged — a Medium Tall Tree stood demurely, her branches reaching just to the bottom of the picture of the Star of David and the three wise men on the wall behind her. Medium Tall Tree wore almost as many adornments as Very Tall Tree, and on her top-most branch a star gleamed bright as a baby’s smile.
Out in the kitchen Littlest Tree stood in a sand-filled pail (the pail gloriously adorned with pasted-on macaroni shapes spray-painted silver and turquoise). Littlest Tree wore pink tinsel and pink baubles and fluffy pink strands around and around her branches. The Very Old Couple perched Littlest Tree on a kitchen stool where she could watch the cooking.
On Christmas eve, the Very Old Couple went to bed early, satisfied with their labors and looking forward to Christmas morning after church when all the village children would be allowed to come to the Very Old Couple’s Christmas party. The house grew silent as the noises of a busy day faded away. Only Very Tall Tree, Medium Tall Tree and Littlest Tree remained awake. But, they couldn’t help it! They glittered, they shone, they shimmered with light.
Then … on the mantel, Very Old Santa Doll said, “Ho, Ho, Ho” and with his fat Santa hand, he turned the key on Very Old Music Box. Very Old Music Box began playing a Christmas waltz. The song made Littlest Tree want to dance. It made Medium Tall Tree want to prance. It made Very Tall Tree want to twirl.
Littlest Tree shook out of her pail and danced around the kitchen chairs and into the dining room. Medium Tall Tree bowed and swayed and hopped from her base, pranced around the table and danced into the parlor. Very Tall Tree rumbled with glee, twisted and turned and twirled right off her stand. Very Tall, Medium Tall and Littlest danced all around, danced into town, danced through the streets, danced until dawn.
The sun slipped over the edge of the night. Very Tall Tree, Medium Tall Tree and Littlest Tree whirled and twirled and swirled back to the Very Old House where the Very Old Couple were just now brushing their false teeth and getting ready to face the day of the Christmas party. Very Tall Tree got back on her stand; Medium Tall Tree twisted onto her base; Littlest Tree put herself into the pail on the stool in the kitchen.
The Christmas party for the children of Very Old Village turned out to be a wonderful success. Very Tall Tree, Medium Tall Tree and Littlest Tree were triply pleased, too. They shook their branches making their ornaments twinkle, but … they never said a word about their midnight prancing, dancing and twirling.
But then, why would they? ❖
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So two weeks ago the president told us that the greatest threat to the United States is systemic racism. Last week he told the Europeans that the greatest threat to the U.S. is climate change.