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Thursday, 25 December 2008

The Christmas Star

By Jeanne Waite Follett

There were rumors, of course, but no way to know for certain. If you read the pundits or listened to the politicians on the radio, you could believe anything you wanted to believe, or fear anything you wanted to fear. The year was 1940.

They were young and in love. Perhaps their love gave them the courage to surmount the rumors, or perhaps it was because of the rumors that they wed on the last day of November.

On their first Christmas together, they purchased a simple red foil star for their tabletop tree. In the snapshot they stand on either side of the tree, he handsome with curly dark hair, wearing a suit vest, and she pretty in a sequined dress.


Their first anniversary came on a Sunday and again we can believe the rumors and threats were not foremost in their minds, because they held a new life in their arms that day. Their first child had been born the previous Sunday. Now they were parents with a helpless infant to love and protect.

A week later it all changed. A week later, when their daughter was exactly two weeks old, the Japanese launched a sneak attack against the United States by bombing Pearl Harbor.

Three weeks later the star adorned the top of their Christmas tree, though this holiday season was fraught with worry and concern.

On their fourth Christmas the black and white photograph shows them seated with their two-year-old daughter between them in front of the tree topped with a red foil star.


Eventually the father was called to go to war. There are no photographs for several years of a tree topped with a red star. We know it was there only through oral stories.

The father came home from the war but jobs were hard to find. The couple moved to Alaska to begin a new life in a territory far from home. The photographs began again and every year the same star graced the family Christmas tree.

One season the mother brought home a beautiful angel in a white gown trimmed with gold and decorated with spun glass. She placed it atop the Christmas tree and set aside the old piece of red foil. The eldest of the children objected and the younger ones added their concurrence. They wanted the red star back on their tree. The angel disappeared.


This evening, sixty-eight years after it first was placed on a tree in the home of a hopeful, newly-wed couple, the star was once again fastened to the top of an evergreen. It bears the signs of its age: creased, wrinkled, and flattened.

The young couple is gone now, he before she by several years. The youngest of their three daughters also is gone, well before her time. And I, that child born two weeks before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I am the one who placed that battered star in its place of honor.

As I did I thought of my parents, my brother and sister, my nieces and nephews. Like that star, we siblings bear the signs of age, faces creased and hands wrinkled, hopes and dreams pressed with the realities of life.

I wonder which of the nieces or nephews will take the star when I am gone? Which of them will someday say, “This star has shone from the top of our family tree for exactly one hundred years.”

Emerging under a threat of war, strengthened in a move to a frontier land, unscathed by accidental fire, wounded by untimely death, tempered by love, rewarded with allegiance, this star has seen it all. There’s a lifetime of stories in its crinkles and creases. Courage, strength, survival, loss, love, dedication and above all else: hope. That is the significance of this old star atop the Christmas tree.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Great story.

Since my parents' house was sold, I keep wondering where all the decades of Christmas decorations went. My brother and hubby didn't find them when they went down to clean it out.

I am trying not to obsess over the missing ornaments, but I sure miss the traditions.


Your story was so touching and sentimental. By the time I had read it all,the tears were streaming down my cheeks but,still,I was smiling because I was thinking of how fortunate your parents were to have had each other for so long and also for raising such a loving daughter.

Merry Christmas......

Jeanne: Your writing skills were never more evident than your Christmas Story. It gave pause to my day to remember similar thoughts, but nearly as eloquent.
Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas, Jeanne,
As you always do, you made this family come to life. It brought back memories of the star atop my Christmas tree. May you continue to engage us with the gift of a story.

As always, at your very best when you are telling a story, a real story. Did I read a similar one some years ago? You are becoming the embodiment of a true Alaskan!
Have a good year! and keep em comin' (another Palinism)


Enjoyed the story so much! You know how to make us see and feel your family experiences. I still have a glass bird ornament which was on our tree from my childhood. These mememtos are so precious. Good writing!

I took a hint from Amber and took a look back. Glad I did. It gave me pause to consider the gift of family and the traditions we share and keep alive.

Enjoyed this story and the skill of the writer.

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