Estelle's Christmas

Carol Stober

© Copyright 2001 by Carol Stober

Photo of a autoharp on a quilt.

All my life I've looked toward the start of something new. Never has there been a day when I've looked back to wonder what I've made of life, because it has always been in the making.

I've never understood those remarks that some folks make about getting depressed when their family holiday plans bring them together at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The holidays at each year's end have always been anticipated with wonder and excitement for me. My philosophy is that the old year has been fruitful, but I am ready for a new beginning when the holidays and a new year actually comes.

You see, when I was a child of eleven years old, St. Nicholas stopped bringing me toys like he brought for my sister and brothers. Mama talked to me in private. She said, "Estelle, you are old enough to understood that we are poor." Then she let me bake the rich fancy holiday butter cookies and decorate them with sugar frosting to put under the tree for Santa on Christmas Eve.

I've carried on traditions, but every year I try to be creative and celebrate something slightly different to make the holidays special. This year I decided to buy new ornaments for my Christmas tree. I shopped around the novelty stores in town looking to find unique decorations but nothing exactly struck my fancy, so I finally decided to try searching through all of those junk mail catalogs that started arriving in my mailbox back in October.

I was hastily thumbing through some of those bright, slick, glossy pages when right near the bottom of page 31 in the Mystical Celestial Sky Catalog, Winter Edition, was a lovely reddish-golden koa wood box containing four hand-blown glass Christmas bulbs with flowing swirls of color.

I couldn't help but imagine that those ornaments would flow something like a tie-dyed fabric in a colorful skirt moving in harmony with a woman's body as she walks leisurely along in front of me or anyone else, for that matter.

So I logged onto and promptly submitted my order.

It was exactly four days until Christmas when the postman delivered that coveted koa wood box that I had so anxiously awaited. Now let me ask you, what does anyone do with only four decorations to hang on a Christmas tree? "That's no problem," I find myself thinking, "find a tree that they fit, right?"

I remembered seeing some miniature potted evergreen plants in the flower department at the local Winn Dixie Grocery Store. I'm also thinking that eventually a plant like that could become a regular houseplant following the holiday season, which is none-the-less economical. So I rushed out to buy one and bring it back home with me. "Ah, that is a perfect tree to hang my four lovely multi-colored ornaments on," I mused, and when I did it, their colors just floated like music as I stared at a vision of peaceful, yet joyful shimmering glass hanging at various angles on my precious holiday tree.

The spirit of Christmas just seemed to grab me. I noticed that my golden spruce custom-made musical autoharp was laying silently on the cushion of my couch, and I could almost hear it whispering, "Estelle, sing a holiday song." I remind you that an autoharp is an acoustic musical instrument where you push a chord bar, then strum, and hold it close like a baby against one's chest with both arms wrapped around it, so that the sound just vibrates through one's whole body. What a heavenly feeling that is.

I picked up my harp, relaxed back onto my comfortable familiar couch, and watched the flames flicker off the log burning all aglow in my fireplace. Then I noticed that the white swirls on my blue Christmas tree bulb began floating like clouds as I revved up my voice and patted my foot to the rhythm of the music.

Suddenly without warning, I heard several other instruments playing right along beside me, and there was the constant chatter of people talking. Then I observed folks sitting around tiny square tables covered with blue and white checkered table clothes and chugging beer. It looked like everyone was eating and drinking and dancing. I was actually playing music with a Western Swing Band all decked out in fancy cowboy hats and boots, and sporting blue work handkerchiefs tied around their necks. I looked down in front of me. My boots looked just like theirs! The sign above the bar said "Blue Moon Saloon".

"What a party!" I said to myself. The bartender kept bringing out more kegs of beer, and the party just went on and on and on. I continued playing my autoharp right along with that group of guys in the band until my fingers were plumb numb, and I could not hold my eyes open any longer. "Wow, what a holiday party that was." I'm thinking, "Estelle, you never had so much fun in your whole life, you never had it so good!"

The next evening I'm counting down the days until Christmas. Only three more. I glance at my little baby tree with pride and pick up my autoharp as I lazily stretch out on my living room couch. The thought crosses my mind, "only three days left this year to sing Christmas songs, so I had better take advantage of the situation." I begin strumming wildly as my eye catches the sparkling glow of light bouncing off of the various shades of red color that twists and weaves through the vibrating glass bulb like beams of pulsating energy bursting from a strobe light.

I'm feeling really good now. Then I noticed that lots of shiny mirror-like mylar was hanging from the ceiling to the floor, and bright neon lights were flashing on and off making the room look like it was about ready to explode. Cellophane confetti was floating through the air. Acid rock music was blaring around me. I could see my own liquid-slick red skin-tight leather pants matched those of the other musicians as we blasted ear-shattering music from our instruments at heart-pounding pace from a stage in the corner of what appeared to be a large warehouse.

Sexy waitresses wearing skirts made of plastic icicles and no tops...I mean nothing covering their tiny flesh-color boobs...were drifting through the crowd of young people who were dressed in really far-out stuff. Their dresses were frontless or backless or both, and their hair was all spiked and odd colors, shapes, and lengths. Tattoos, nose rings, lip rings, and multiple ear rings pierced the bodies of guys and gals alike. The smell of grass hung heavy in the air. "Cool Christmas Party, Estelle!" one of the guys in our band said to me.

Unfortunately, I'm not in the habit of staying awake all night, so I'm afraid that I didn't last as long as I should have, but in the end I had a good time playing music for all of those weird and crazy people.

"Only two more days until Christmas," I say to my Sis, "see you then!" I click off talking to her on my cell phone and try to get in the proper mood for a quiet evening all alone.

Settling back to my favorite spot on the couch, I casually strum a few chords on my delightfully, delicate autoharp and admire the hand-blown Christmas ornaments once again. They glisten and sparkle and reflect the light from the warm glow of the log crackling and burning in my fireplace. I notice the yellow swirls changing to orange and gold as I twist my head and body slightly to the drumming pulse of my music. The colors keep radiating and bounce off of my golden natural wood grained instrument while my music grows in intensity with many strings vibrating together in perfect harmony.

I sense an intense heat warming my arms and face. I subtly become aware that my bare feet and wiggling toes are feeling grains of sand squishing between and beneath them. I am instantly telling myself that a Christmas vacation at the beach is exactly what I have needed for a couple of months now.

A drum beat focuses my ear onto a strange kind of foreign rhythm as I tap my foot and count along with it, all of the time trying to decipher the genre of music. Maybe it is Latin...or Caribbean?. I remember that I never could do very well playing complex syncopated beats on my autoharp, but now I am grooving it perfectly with the "Island Sunshine Band". I know that is what we are called because I see the banner on my black, chipboard instrument case laying in the sand at my feet.

The various shades of yellow, orange, and gold in my casual draped tie-dyed skirt that I am wearing matches the shirts of my fellow band members. Everyone else in this crowd is gathered around us and are wearing swim suits and swinging to the fantastic music. Frisbees sail through the air. A game of volleyball is happening not far up the white sandy beach that gently touches the calm blue waters of the ocean edge. Branches on leafy palm trees wave gently and silently as the breeze from the water mixes with the glowing sunshine from the brilliant sky overhead. A few fluffy white clouds take on the shapes of fish and dolphins and familiar animals. This is tropical paradise. Call it sun worship, but I love it!

For a moment, I ponder what this scene has to do with celebrating Christmas and then I remember. Once upon a time a pagan festival with it's riot and merry making celebrated the death of the "old sun", the shortest day of the year, and the birth of the "new sun" at the solstice. It originated in ancient Egypt around 3000 BC where people worshiped a Sun-God. The pagan beliefs spread to Babylon and all over the world. The physical rebirth of the SUN, eventually became the SON of God in our Christian religion. Now I have to admit that legend definitely makes sense to me!

I could have strummed island music forever, but with it being only one day more until Christmas I figured something out. Them ornaments that I had ordered from the Mystical Celestial Sky catalog had magical qualities. My sister says that I never can leave well enough alone, so I definitely had to discover where the fourth multi-colored hand-blown glass ball would take me on Christmas Eve.

When most other folks were preparing for Santa Claus to arrive, I was sitting in front of my Christmas tree playing Christmas songs that I remembered learning from an old church hymnal when I was a child. I stared at the glass ornament dangling from the branch until I was beginning to get dizzy, and I could see every color of the rainbow chasing each other and intermingling in swirls like sunlight glowing through stained glass windows.

Voices were singing along with me like a full choir in a large old-world cathedral. The sound was glorious and almost unbelievable as I hugged my treasured autoharp to my chest and played the Messiah score that was resting on the black music stand. The written notes floated in front of my eyes. The large Orchestra composed of numerous string musicians were all dressed in formal black pants with white shirts, and I was too. Our leader wore a black coat with long tails and was directing us with a frenzied motion of his baton as he stood on his box.

I looked up at the beautiful stained glass windows of the church obviously displaying the story of the birth of the Christ child dressed in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger. There was Mary with a golden halo shinning around her head and smiling. Angels were hovering in the sky and shepherds were kneeling on the ground. I instantly recognized the three wise men who followed the star in the east and brought treasures of gold and frankincense, and myrrh.

We finished our grand concert, and almost before I knew it, Christmas Eve. was forever behind me.

The next day I joined my family for a traditional Christmas dinner and when my sister asked, "Estelle, what have you been doing with yourself all week?" I smiled as usual and replied, "Mostly, I've been playing music on my autoharp." She just shook her head in silence, and smiled back.

Later as I carefully removed the hand-blown glass ornaments from the branches of my tiny tree on Christmas Day and placed them back into the charming wood-grained koa box, I found myself thinking about the wonders and mysteries that happen when we always try to enjoy life to it's fullest. As usual, this year was special.

My lovely little potted evergreen tree plant sets behind the couch in my north bay window next to my blooming African violets, an ivy plant, and two ferns. I always try to remember to water it twice a week, and it continues to grow and thrive.

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