A few years ago a lady from Oak Ridge, TN took inspiration from a childhood Christmas tradition in her home and co-authored the now famous "Elf on the Shelf" book. When I first heard about Carol Aebersold's elf book last year I chuckled at it's meteoric rise to fame. "It's not new," I thought, "I've had a red pixie in my Christmas Tree for most of my life." Now a bit battered from decades of affection, it's my most cherished Christmas ornament. Why? Because of what this little pixie represents.
It was in December 50 some odd years ago that my sister, Stephanie, and I were hospitalized in Reno, Nevada to have pesky tonsils removed. Stephanie, the sensitive artist, and yours truly, the grounded realist, reacted to the experience quite differently. For years after my mother delightedly told the story of how her two daughters reacted to the imaginative tales told by the hospital priest. Stephanie was enchanted; I told him he was wrong to think that a bed could be anything but a bed. My sister and I were as different as night and day.
That same December a lady in Reno decided she wanted to host an authentic German Christmas Party, but not being German she wasn't sure she knew exactly what to do. My mother was engaged to help plan the big event, from the decorations to the menus. Mother refused offers of payment, but the lady wanted to do something to show her appreciation. Mother told her about two daughters who had just had their tonsils out and suggested that the lady do something for my sister and me. She offered a simple gift of two pixies, one red and one green. We were delighted!
Every year I made sure my red pixie was properly positioned in a place of honor in the tree. Stephanie did the same with her green pixie. When Stephanie married at age 20, the green pixie went with her, leaving the red one to stand guard alone. A few months later the effects of a car accident took my sister's life. The green pixie remained, but never came back home to perch in our family tree.
A few years ago my mother decided to change to a more elegant decorating scheme for the family Christmas tree. A battered red pixie didn't fit on an elegant tree filled with shimmering gold ornaments. It remained hidden away in boxes, but not forgotten. After the death of my mother four short months ago, I knew Christmas at my house would never be the same. Daddy had mixed feelings about decorating for the holidays. Do we decorate and risk bringing painful feelings to the surface or do we leave all the memories hidden away in boxes? I know how much daddy loves Christmas and Christmas trees and I knew those boxes had to come out. After much thought I decided to use the old, beloved ornaments but decorate in a different way. It worked. After the lights went on the tree, the first ornament to receive it's place of honor was a battered red pixie filled with memories -- memories of love, laughter, family stories, and cherished holiday traditions. But most of all, that little sprite with twinkling eyes and a mischievous grin reminds me of two people who may not be with us in person this Christmas, but they will always be here in our hearts. Love is eternal. Families are forever. It's the gift Christ brought to earth. It is my best gift this Christmas. I love you Mom. I love you Stephanie. Thanks for the memories.