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*A Book for Christmas

As a little girl, December was my favorite month. That held Christmas, and I looked forward to it all year.

Outside, December was cold and dreary. Yet, groups of us kids would meet together to play outdoors so we could sip the hot chocolate made by mothers who would call us inside to warm our toes and dry our clothes.

Inside, December was reading and playing games by the fireplace where it was warm and golden and cozy. It was a time for making cookies, putting paper decorations in the windows, and decorating the Christmas tree until we were sure it was bigger, and better and more beautiful than the one last year.

In December, everyone was in a happy and giving mood. Even school became a happier place to be with decorations filling every classroom, the holiday performances, and everyone anticipating and talking about the gifts they would receive. The special joys of Christmas Day were the high point of a wonderful, long, month.

As time went on, outside was not a place for play anymore, but a foe against which I had to brace both in clothing and mood as I went from home to school and to after-school jobs. Outside activities gave way to indoor movies, school dances, and pizza parties. The time to decorate the big Christmas tree and windows was time away from other important things. Even the fireplace required attention that I increasingly resented giving to it.

Then school became the university 170 miles away. Christmas cookies bought in the store were passed around the dorm room as an energy boost. December was exams, last minute rushed shopping trips, short days, and long, tired faces. I wanted to escape December.

With degrees and job responsibilities come scheduled vacations and times for fun. December was now grading exams, writing research reports, trying to avoid attending too many Christmas parties, and composing notes to old childhood and college friends widely scattered.

My holiday home was sparsely decorated – who has the time? The Christmas tree was small and made of plastic and holiday meals were grabbed through take-away windows while trying to get from one place to another in as short a time as possible.

One December a friend came to visit and she gave me a tiny book as a gift. It was a real book with real pages and its story was told through small type and little pictures. It had a golden cord for hanging it on a Christmas tree, and that is what I did. On a small plastic Christmas tree, a tiny real book looked very lovely.

The next December, my husband took my own book, just published, and photographed its cover. He made a miniature book out of wood and pasted the photograph of my book on its cover. On Christmas Day, a little book that looked just like my much larger one was there on the tree next to the tiny book from my friend.

The two little books, side by side, drew comments of, “how cute,” “what a different idea,” from those friends who had the time to stop by our house. Soon enough, they began to add to what was becoming a collection of tiny real books on my Christmas tree.

Every December, people came to check the growing display of little books and would add one or two found in a special bookstore or during a trip. I always made them sign their gift and write the date and place they found it. This usually led to wonderful stories often told while we sat warming ourselves over holiday dinners and plates of Christmas cookies.

More books required a larger, and better, tree. More room on the tree meant places for more tiny real books. The tree, full of little books, had truly grown into a book tree.

Now I again look forward to December all year. And that happy December spirit comes back to me each time I put up my Christmas book tree.

— Marcia J. Scherer

Webster Village Band