Nine Christmas Trees

Keeping Christmas, After a Loss

We always had really tall Christmas trees at home—so tall they usually reached right to the living-room ceiling of our family’s house in the Fresh Meadows neighborhood of Queens. Every year Mother would say, “Perhaps a smaller one would do this time,” but invariably we ended up bringing home another huge pine. Even in the years when every tree on the lot looked scrawny, we still bought the tallest one. Then we would cut off bottom branches and wire them into the bare spots to create a fully shaped tree.

Every Christmas tree needs a Christmas crèche to go with it, and my family’s Christmas stable was built up gradually. The effort began the year I had four baby teeth extracted without anesthesia. That year the Sister of Mercy who taught second grade in St. Kevin’s grammar school gave each pupil a small limestone statuette of Baby Jesus in the manger. This exquisite object became all the more intriguing when someone discovered that you could lick the statue’s underside and experience a slightly salty, seemingly dangerous taste. Soon thereafter, my mother took my brothers and me to Woolworth’s to buy similarly sized figures to complete our crèche. Jack liked animals and picked out a donkey and sheep. Bobby selected two angels. I chose Mary and Joseph to round out the set. We built the stable from Lincoln Logs. The next year Jack bought a camel and more sheep. Bob picked out a shepherd and two wise men, and I took another...

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About the Author

Rev. Edward J. Kealey is a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York.