Sigh-lent Night
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The mother and the sons go to pick out a Christmas tree in the dark of night. The father is away. That's all right; they can handle it. They go to the local nursery and choose a beautiful tree: big, full, heavy a wonderful tree. The older son shows the nice man from the nursery to their car while the mother and the younger son choose a festive wreath for their front door. The nice man from the nursery ties the big wonderful tree securely to the top of the Explorer. He finishes and the young son, dressed in a camouflage fleece pullover and dark sunglasses, stands on the bumper of the Explorer, his fist to his ear and thumb and little finger extended to mimic a telephone.

"All is secure," he says into his finger. "I repeat. All is secure."

They can go now. They arrive home and go into the house to prepare for the tree. The older child moves furniture. The mother retrieves the tree stand from the basement. The young son has a giant plastic candy cane turned upside down with his winter boot hanging off the end.

"If you don't get moving, you'll get the boot!" he yells.

The mother sighs.

The mother goes outside with the scissors and cuts the cords that fasten the tree to the Explorer. With a brute strength she doesn't know she has, she drags the tree from the Explorer, hoists it under her arm, and proceeds to the house via the front door. The older son is there, and they wrangle with the tree to get it inside. The young son stands in the foyer.

"Houston, we have a problem," the young son says into his little finger. The boot has been removed from the giant candy cane. "I can't find Sammy." Their little dog has disappeared. Of course, all doors leading to the outside are open. The mother sighs. She still holds the tree. The older son helps the mother to the tree stand, and together they guide the trunk into place. The young son dives under the tree and helps his brother tighten the screws from the stand to the tree trunk. It's done, and the tree stands erect. The older son fills the tree stand with fresh water.

The mother begins to untangle Christmas tree lights. She tells the young son to go out to the Explorer and close the doors she left open when struggling with the tree. The young son says it's scary out there. The mother says to do it anyway. The young son, clutching the big plastic candy cane, makes a dash out the door. The mother throws the lights on the trees. She tells the older son to figure out the plugs and extension cords because she just can't do it. The older son settles on the floor next to the tree and begins to calculate the electrical components. The mother doesn't worry, for the child will succeed. The young son runs back into the house, breathless and cheeks reddened from the cold. He tells the mother there is something outside. He doesn't know what it is, but it has fangs and glowing eyes. The mother tells him to put hooks on the ornaments. There is a scratching noise upstairs. The dog is found in the bathroom and is retired to his dog kennel. Snow falls outside. All is well.

The older son lights the tree; at last the fun begins the hanging of the ornaments. There are 96 brand new glass ornaments to hang on the big Christmas tree, the older son figures, and a gold star. They begin to hang the glass ornaments when the mother notices some drooping tree branches at the bottom of the tree. She gets a wire cutter and crawls underneath the tree to cut the offending branches. She snips and cuts.

"Are there any more?" she asks the sons before she makes her way out from under the tree.

"This one," the older son says.

"Which one?" the mother asks.

"Right here," the older son says, tugging on the branch.

The tree topples over, and the sons shriek in alarm. Glass ornaments break in scores.

"It's my fault," the older son laments. "I pulled on the tree branch."

"No, it's my fault," the young son says, but he doesn't know what he did. He just wants to be involved.

The big wonderful Christmas tree lies atop the mother, who is pinned to the floor. The mother sighs.

"Oh, all the ornaments are broken!" the sons wail.

The mother tries to get up on her hands and knees with the hope of lifting the tree up, but it's no use. "Help!" The mother's muffled voice filters through the dense branches of the Christmas tree. "Help!"

The realization hits them.

"Mum's under the tree!" the older son tells the young son.

"Mum, are you hurt?" the young son calls into the branches. The mother says something, but the sons can't make it out.

"What?" they say.

"Get this tree off of me!" the mother yells.

The sons struggle to lift the tree and the mother is freed. They stand the tree up again, but this time the mother knows better. She's going to tie that sumbitch Christmas tree to the wall. She's done fooling around.

"Get the broom and start sweeping," the mother tells the older son.

"Are you mad?" the young son asks the mother.

"No," she says. "It was an accident." She leaves to find twine and screws.

The sons sweep and vacuum; it is an arduous task. The mother returns and fastens screws into the window molding and ties the tree up. They re-hang the lights and ornaments, and the tree is taking shape at last. They will finish it the next day.

"How many ornaments do you think we lost?" the mother asks the older son as they head upstairs.

"At least half," the older son says.

"Are you hurt, Mum?" the young son asks again. "Is your back okay after the tree fell on it?"

"I'm fine," the mother assures her children. Nothing nine Advil won't take care of, the mother thinks to herself. She sighs.

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