Adeline walked along the crowded high street, full of Christmas shoppers. The store fronts reflect the hustle and bustle in the glass. Bags and packages weighing down arms, demanding and tired children in equal measure and frustrated gentlemen panicking about what to buy. Window displays of red, green, white; gold and silver entice the bargain hunters to venture in. Their Christmas scenes full of trees, reindeer, Santa’s in sleighs or shouldering a large red sack and surrounded by pretend boxes of gifts. Make believe snow lies on the floor, while wires dangle snowflakes and stars. Each Christmas tree is topped with an angel or a star, one after the other, shop after shop. As she walks, avoiding bags and elbows and small children, Adeline feels a compulsion to do something different for her tree. Why be the same as everyone else?
In her small but neat and tidy apartment, everything is in its place. She relishes an orderly space. She looks around the living area. Where would I even put a tree? Adeline looks at the possibilities as she prepares her supper. There is the breakfast bar, which could hold a small tree, but would it encumber her meal preparations? She dismisses the small round dining table, as any size of tree would obscure the diners from each other. Without a fireplace or mantle, the apartment is without a focal point. She refuses to make the TV a focus and has it placed on one side wall. The coffee table is too useful to clutter with any sort of ornament. Where is the best spot to place a tree?
As she sits eating her supper of chicken, jasmine rice and spinach and carrots, Adeline wonders if she even needs to go to the bother of purchasing a tree. After all, she would spend Christmas Day with her parents and sister. Last year, though, she was still living with her parents, so Christmas followed the usual routine, with her mother spearheading everything. Sipping her wine, Adeline, thought about her new space, her new life and realized she wanted to share it. The dining table was just big enough for her parents, younger sister and herself. Even if she spent Christmas Day at her parents, she wanted to host a celebration in her new home.
After clearing away the dishes, Adeline closed her eyes, imagined the living area empty and placed her few possessions in different settings. With the sectional turned along the TV wall, instead of with its back to the bay window, she would have an open space. That would be a perfect place for the tree. Excited now, she had a plan, Adeline pushed the sofa sections around and moved the coffee table in front of it. She also moved her extra-large sofa chair and footstool so it was angled in such a way it would directly face the tree. Where she imagined herself curled up under a blanket, illuminated by the twinkling lights and reading a good book.
The next day, Adeline set off early in search of an artificial tree, lots of decorations for it and the all-important tree topper. Store after store promised the most unique tree, some with integral lights, others not. There were decorations in every colour possible, large and small, fancy or plain. Adeline was finding it difficult to choose, so decided to take a break in a local café. There was a queue to the door, so she waited her turn, then choose hot chocolate with marshmallows and a cinnamon sprinkle. She scrolled the photos on her cell phone, of the trees and decorations she liked. One by one, she dismissed them until she had one tree and a couple of sets of ornaments, that would complement each other. Now she could go directly to the specific stores and purchase them. The only item remaining to choose was the topper, every one she had photographed just wasn’t special enough. Where will I find something unique?
As she put her mug into the dirty collection tray, an older woman bumped her arm.
“Oh, my goodness, I am so sorry. I lost my balance for a moment there.”
It’s quite alright. Do you need a hand to your table? Are you dizzy?’
“No, I’m fine, thank you. Just forgot to eat breakfast in my rush to get out of the house this morning. I think my blood sugar is a little low. Once I eat this muffin and drink the orange juice, I will be fine. Thank you for your kindness.”
Adeline followed the lady to her seat, wished her season’s greetings and turned to leave. The woman placed a hand on her arm and Adeline felt a tingle.
“You should visit the antique store around the corner, you will find what you seek there.”
Adeline frowned and asked, what the woman meant.
“I sometimes pick up on wishes when I touch people. I hope I didn’t spook you out. Happy Christmas.” The woman winked at her and sipped her drink.
Adeline smiled and walked out of the café. What an odd lady. However, despite herself she did walk around the corner to find an antique store, just as the woman had said. Curiosity made her enter the store, its interior crammed full of curio cabinets, long tables piled full of items and numerous clocks, pictures and signs on every wall. How on earth would anyone find anything in here?
A gentleman’s voice startled her. “Good morning, may I help you?”
At first Adeline could not see him through the plethora of items but then he moved to one side and she saw him standing behind a dark oak counter at the back of the store, almost completely obscured by display stands.
“Good morning, I am looking for something unusual as a Christmas tree topper, but have no idea what that would look like or if you would have anything like that.”
“Well, come this way, we have an assortment of decorations over here.”
Adeline walked towards him, turning sideways to avoid objects, shelving and cabinets along the aisle. On the far side of the store, she was delighted the see a large cabinet full of Christmas decorations. There was a light shining on it making everything inside sparkle and shine.
“Oh, goodness it looks magical.”
“Well, thank you. Take your time to choose, just be careful, some of the decorations are very old. If you need help just ask.”
“Thank you, I will.”
Adeline looked at the large cabinet and began picking up objects, one by one. Some had lost their shine, there were chips out of others and some had no means of hanging them as they were broken. She found the usual stars and angels in metal, plastic and wood, but also a Santa hat, a reindeer antler, a gnome, a gingerbread man, a dinosaur and a spacecraft. All interesting but not what she felt was right. Then she saw it, a black felt top hat decorated with fake snow and glitter, candy canes, tinsel and holly. It was perfect.
She carried it to the counter and the gentleman nodded his approval.
“Well, that is special isn’t it? Echoes of times past. I will wrap if for you.”
“Thank you so much. I have been to every store in the high street and couldn’t find anything quite right. My Christmas tree will be perfect now.”
With her purchase made, Adeline went back to the high street and purchased the tree and decorations and made her way home. After a quick lunch, she assembled the tree, spent a long time placing each ornament in just the right place and then once it was complete, she added the final flourish – the top hat. It’s perfect.
On Boxing Day, her parents and sister arrived for lunch and all exclaimed how wonderful her tree looked. It resembled a Christmas Carol type scene, with mock candles, holly, pine cones, fabric ornaments and oranges wrapped in ribbon and pricked with cloves. The top hat sat pride of place right at the top of the tree. Adeline even found an ornate tablecloth and napkins for the dining table to continue the theme with handmade top hat place settings.
She was so happy, her first Christmas in her new home was extra special. The old woman had been right to send her to the antique store. She would always be thankful.
I hope you liked my Christmas story, it was fun to write.