Prompt: Once Upon a _______. Fill in the blank with any word except the word “Time” to complete your story.
The scent of pine was overpowering, delighting me with a nose full that smelled just like Christmas. Evergreen trees towered over my head on both sides, leaving me feeling very small and very alone. Those feeling were new to me, though this place was as familiar as my backyard. I come here every December to pick out our Christmas tree, this was the first year without the laughter in our family and the happy images of our tree strung with lights and dripping ornaments.
This was also the first Christmas without my sister.
I remind myself that it could be worse, that my sister could be sitting in a hospital instead of in a classroom. But I hadn’t been ready for her to leave for college; I had counted on having another year to brace myself for the loneliness of being an only child. As I pulled my puffy jacked tighter around me, I pictured Molly reacting to my glum mood, “Oh stop complaining Anna! It’s Christmas! You’ve always been such a crybaby!”, she’d laugh and poke me in the stomach earning a smile from me, too. Tears dripped down my wind-blown cheeks, and I wiped them away before they froze, hoping my red nose could be passed as just cold. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, silently promising Molly that I would try to be joyful in the holidays, even without her.
Surprisingly, happiness flooded through me as I imagined her running her hands over the pine needles of the tree next to me. But as quickly as the feeling came, a cold, dark pit opened in my stomach replacing the warm memories. I concentrated on last Christmas, holding the thought of my sister in my mind as we scoured the tree farm looking for the perfect tree. I imagined what my sister would say about each tree we passed and I only stopped at an emerald pine tree sparking with ice crystals. This one was it. It was beautiful and the right height and width for our living room. (The Molly side of my brain told me that, she had always been the mathematician of our family.) My dad, noticing my expression of pure joy, nodded to the clerk who was showing us around. I turned to look at my sister and start the argument of who got to put the star on top, but I was greeted only by a forest of pines surrounding me. My mom pulled me into her warm arms and our coats crinkled as we thought about our absent family member. Her tears plopped on my hair, but my cheeks stayed dry. Molly may not be here, but she’s always in our hearts and memories of when she was with us, once upon a pine.