The Words of the Exler Family
Do you know what happens to Christmas balls on Christmas Eve? They come alive.
Yes they do, they come alive. I've seen it myself.
They talk to each other in little tiny, high tinkly voices, and when the voices start to get too loud they break out in tiny tinsly giggles.
It's amazing to hear.
Sometimes one of them gets a little too excited and starts hopping from branch to branch, and then two of them start doing it. Before you know it, fifteen balls are hopping madly around the Christmas tree, laughing and carrying on like nothing you've ever seen.
I remember how it all happened, one Christmas Eve, not so long ago.
It was a cold and wintry night, and the snow was falling in huge wet flakes outside the window. It was covering everything in sight. I wondered how Santa would be able to get through to the door in all that snow.
Inside, it was warm and cozy. The house was bathed in a warm orange glow... The Christmas tree was decorated with little painted wooden toys, and the most beautiful Christmas balls in all different colors. Blue, red, green, and gold. There were some silver ones too, and some had wonderful pictures on them in gold and white sprinkly stuff. They sparkled and shone in the warm glow of the Christmas lights. The smell of pine filled the room... it was the smell of Christmas!
I was supposed to be sleeping, but I wasn't. I had found myself a nice comfortable hiding place on the staircase where I could see everything, but no one could see me. I had promised myself that I would wait up for Santa that Christmas and thank him for all he had done. Not just for me, but for all the done, for all the children around the world.
And there was one more thing I hoped Santa could do.
There was a family that lived across the street that was so poor, they had no money to celebrate Christmas. They hardly had any food at all, and their clothes were almost in rags. I knew the father had been out of work for a long time and the mother had five children to take care of.
I had written Santa a long letter and left it under the tree, telling him all about it. I was hoping somehow he could help.
I looked out the window again, and it was still snowing. The two lower corners of the window were covered with snow. It was a perfect Christmas Eve, so quiet and still. Big, white snowflakes were gently floating down from the dark night sky. Somewhere from outside came the sound of jingling bells. "Silent night, holy night! All is calm, all is bright..."
The time passed slowly and I yawned, wondering when Santa would come. I was so tired, I think I must have dozed off for a few minutes.
"Hee, hee, hee!"
What was that?
"Hee, hee, hee!" (Tinkle, tinkle) There it was again.
"Hee, Hee, Heeeeee!" (Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle) "I think everyone has gone to bed! Hey everybody, WAKE UP!" (Tinkle, tinkle)
"Hey, who's shaking the branches, I'm getting dizzy!"
"Watch out, Bert, you almost knocked the bell off the tree."
"Hey everybody, look outside! Isn't it a perfect Christmas Eve! Boy, what a night to hang out with your favorite balls! Hee, hee, heee!"
"Shhhh! I think I hear somebody coming!"
"Someone's coming, alright! To put you away until next year!
"Oh no!, Not that! Not... the Box! I'm just a poor helpless little Christmas ball! Hee, Heeeeeee, heee, heeeeeee, heee!"
"That does it Bert! You come back here!"
I'd never seen anything like it in my whole life. The whole tree started to bounce and shake as two Christmas balls hopped from branch to branch, and the rest giggled and shouted in their excitement.
I was so amazed at what I saw, that without thinking, I stood up to get a better look. There was a dull creak from the stairs, and in a wink of an eye all was still. I looked at the tree and not a ball was out of place, nothing moved. It was as if all that I had seen had only been a dream.
I stood there for a few moments staring, and then remembered why I had been sitting on the stairs. Santa hadn't come yet.
There were still no presents under the tree, so I still had a chance to talk to him! Soon I forgot everything, except my hope to see Santa.
I sat down again and began to think of the letter I had written and the poor family that lived across the street. I must have sat there for an hour trying to stay awake when I heard a sound.
"Pssst, Merry! Pssssst!" (Tinkle, tinkle)
"Pssst! don't make so much noise, Bert! You'll wake up the whole neighborhood, goodness me!"
"Hee, heee, heeeeee! What a beautiful night for Santa! Fa-la-la-la laah-lalaa-la-laaaah! Soon there will be so many presents under the tree in all different shapes and sizes! Our moment of glory is almost here... What's that?"
"What's that white thing there under the tree?"
"Oh, that's a letter for Santa from Christopher. It's a very important letter all about the poor family across the street. You know, Bert, they don't even have a Christmas tree."
"And... no Christmas balls, either," piped up a little star-speckled green ball.
There was a deep silence.
"I don't understand it, it is a terrible thing. I heard Christopher talking to his Mama this afternoon about it."
Another deep silence.
"Perhaps, Humphrey, we could help in some way", said the little green Christmas ball.
All the balls started whispering and chattering in their high tinkly voices. It was such a magical musical sound, I pinched myself to make sure I wasn't asleep. Their voices sounded like music from a faraway place.
Then one tiny voice piped up above the rest.
"Quiet now. I don't know what we can do. Perhaps we should just wait and see what Santa has to say about it all."
"Okay, Humphrey. After all, you're the big ball around here. Whatever you say goes. Hee, heeee, heeeee!"
"Come on! Let's play! If I catch you Bert," cried Merry, "you're a melted snowflake!" The balls started tossing from branch to branch, giggling and shouting.
Suddenly, they were still, and all was quiet. Just then the handle on the front door turned and the door slowly opened. There was a rush of cold air, the door closed without a sound and Santa stood there as big as life.
I held my breath. There he was! Standing in my living room! I was frozen; I couldn't move. Here he was, yet I could hardly believe it! He was just as round and fat as all the pictures I'd seen. And his eyes were just as merry.
Slowly he put his big brown bag on the floor, and reached into the large pocket of his coat. He drew out a long pad of paper and a pencil. He began checking off what was written there, pulling at his beard every now and then, looking off into the distance. Then he picked up his bag and walked quickly and quietly into the room and set it down near the tree.
He bent down and started to pull presents out of the bag, one by one, and laid them carefully under the tree with loving care.
He was moving so quickly that I was afraid he wouldn't see my letter, but I was too afraid to speak.
Soon he would be finished and he would be gone as quickly and as silently as he had come.
I heard sudden whispering, and then a tiny tinkly crash.
Santa turned quickly around and looked down, and there on the floor beside my letter were the thin shattered pieces of a beautiful green, star- speckled Christmas ball.
Santa reached over and took the letter. He opened it and started to read. A look of sorrow crossed his face, and he looked out the window to the house across the street. He looked again at the broken Christmas ball, and with a curious look on his face, bent down to gather up the pieces. Thoughtfully he put them on a little table by the tree.
Somehow I knew that this little Christmas ball had destroyed itself to direct Santa's attention to my letter. Somehow I felt that little Christmas ball knew it wouldn't play secretly among the branches of a beautiful Christmas tree anymore, that it would die.
As I looked at the broken pieces, I suddenly noticed that the lights were out and Santa was gone.
Then I heard the sounds of weeping, quiet and gentle. They cried and sang a beautiful song for their friend, and then all was still.
The moonlight shone brightly through the window and even though I stayed awake for a while nothing moved again and there was no sound to be heard.
It was my father who found me asleep near the tree on Christmas morning with a little green star-speckled Christmas ball in my hand. It had thin lines that could barely be seen all over it, as if it had been broken and then put together again.
I have never forgotten the heart of the humble little Christmas ball, and every Christmas since then it has had a very special and honored place on our Christmas tree, right at the very top, near the star.
Later, I heard that the family across the street had a wonderful Christmas, and that they were doing very well. The father had found a good job and they were living very happily together.
Have I ever seen the Christmas balls laughing and playing in the branches of our Christmas tree since that magical Christmas Eve?
Well, that is another story.
Merry Christmas, everyone, and a Happy God's Day! (Tinkle, tinkle)