Gracie lay quietly – perfectly still for what seemed like forever. Her snow hat tickled her auburn hair. Her dress – with the oversized snowflake front and center – felt worn and wrinkled, though she couldn’t be sure with her surroundings so dark. Something sharp was poking her in the back. Above her, below her, to the right and to the left, Gracie sensed the color and glitter and shine of nearby objects. She could not move to see them but Gracie knew they were there. After all, when you’re a Christmas tree ornament you know what it’s like to spend almost a year in a cardboard box.
Without warning a door opened. Gracie held her breath, as this basement closet was home to more than just Christmas things. But then she heard happy voices and boxes being shuffled about. There was a quick trill of sleigh bells followed by the friendly clack-clack of Christmas light bundles. Then there was a jolt – a bit of an earthquake really! – and the sensation of being lifted and moved. Yet it wasn’t until Gracie sensed she was going up the stairs that she knew for sure. Yes, yes – it was time! December was here again! Gracie smiled (though she always smiled no matter how she felt). In all her excitement she tried to push back the qualms; those uneasy feelings that entered her mind every year at this moment. Would she make it to the best branch on the Christmas tree? Would she make it to the tree at all?
Other ornaments came to life slowly around her, yawning and stretching (those that could move, closer to the top of the box). There was the excited chatter of anticipation. Who would be chosen first? Who would face the fireplace with its brightly decorated garlands and stockings? Who would hang from the lowest branches, where you could almost reach out and touch the presents? And which lucky ones would journey to the highest branches, standing guard just below the Christmas angel? “Oh, hurry, please hurry,” thought Gracie. “Let us out into the light!”
Suddenly all of the movement stopped and the box top was removed. Bright light filtered all the way down to the bottom where Gracie lay impatiently. As the ornaments above her were removed, Gracie’s thoughts still tormented her. Was the tree big enough? Did it have good, solid branches? Did they still love her enough to include her?
At long last Gracie saw hands reaching down and removing the ornaments closest to her. Away went the Star of David. Away went the little wooden rocking horse. Away went the gingerbread man with his one eye missing. Finally the whole box was upended, and Gracie and the remaining ornaments came tumbling out into a messy pile on the table. “This is awkward,” she giggled, sprawling almost upside down. It would take some untangling if she hoped to get noticed.
To the sound of Christmas carols and laughter, Gracie watched from the table as one after another of the ornaments were carried to the tree and placed carefully on the branches. She had only just arrived, yet the tree was already looking complete!
“Oh no”, she worried, “I’m a little girl but I’m pretty big for an ornament. Will there be any branches left to hold me?”
Then Gracie heard the words she dreaded most. “Okay children,” someone said, “I think that’s enough for this year. Let’s stand back and have a look.” And sure enough, the children danced in front of the tree, so happy and clapping. The tree was complete and with the best of the ornaments. Gracie felt a tear form on her cheek. She spied Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Dorothy hanging together halfway up the tree; the perfect view of Christmas everything. Her Wizard of Oz friends made it to the best branch on the tree this year.
Gracie felt so sad. She wished she’d never even seen the tree. Why hadn’t they noticed her this year? Christmas could be so cruel! She watched helplessly as leftover ornaments were placed one by one back into the box. But just as she was scooped up along with a tangle of older ornaments, a wee voice cried out from somewhere below the table, “No, Momma, no! Snow Angel needs a place on the tree, doesn’t she?”
Gracie held her breath. Was she really a Snow Angel?
There was a long pause; nothing but silence really. Momma looked down at the ornaments in her hands, thinking. And then she smiled. With a little bit of untangling Gracie was lifted from the pile. She was placed carefully in a little girl’s hands, who promptly marched to the tree and searched in vain for an open branch. Seeing none, she slid around to the back of the tree, facing the windows and the snow-covered fields outside. “Here is where she belongs, Momma,” the little girl said proudly. “Snow Angel will be the first ornament to know when Christmas comes!”
And so, there would be a Christmas for Gracie after all. She smiled as she glanced at the branch above her and kept watch through the windows (though Gracie always smiled no matter how she felt). Thanks to the little girl, Gracie made it to the tree this year. Come to think of it, she also made it to the best branch of all.