It is a freezing morning in the city of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Snow and ice covers the ground. Ice sickles hang from roofs. In one particular house, a family getting ready to put up extravagant Christmas decorations. That was my family. It was a tradition of ours to put up the best decorations of any neighborhood household. Everyone had to pitch in as there were tons of decorations piled up in storage bins. Me and my mother were heading into the attic to gather the last of the decorations, when my father called up from above. "Where's that wreath?", he yelled. My mother stopped in her tracks. "What?", she asked nervously, "You mean the special family one?" "Yeah!", yells my dad, "I've been looking for it for 10 minutes now!" My mother races up the ladder and looks all around the attic, but she doesn't see it. "We are going to have to find another one!", she says with sorrow. I grab the last storage bin and take it down into the living room. My mother is the last one out of the attic. "Everything will be ruined without a wreath!", she cries angrily. "Don't worry.", I say, "We can find another one." "Another one?", she says hysterically, "You can't be serious?" I nodded slowly and she shook her head. "Fine.", she says after a while, "But it has to be perfect." She grabs me by the hand and thrusts me into the truck. We drove about 20 miles through the main city, stopping at multiple holiday stores. At every one, my mother shakes her head. "We'll never find another one.", she says. I keep quiet as she complains about the wreath being lost. I knew we could find one. We just had to be patient. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a man standing. In his hand was a beautiful golden wreath. "Look at that one!", I say pointing at the man's hand. My mother turns around and a look of disgust appears on her face. "That ugly thing?", she asks. "Ugly?", I asked. To me it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. "I want to get that one.", I say triumphantly. My mother sighs and relents. "Fine.", she says. We buy the wreath from the man, who nods and walks into the alley. I tried to follow, but he was gone. As I rode in the truck with my wreath, I heard my mother stop. "I'm going to the restroom.", she says quietly. I nod as she exits the vehicle. A little while later, she is walking back to the truck, a bag shaking in her hand. I assumed that it was a present so I did not think much of it. I looked down at the wreath in front of me. It was beautiful. What was my mother seeing that I wasn't? We arrived at the house, and as I exited the truck, my mother looked disgustedly at the wreath. She still didn't like it. She notices that I am looking at her facial expression, so she quickly tries to hide it. "I'll put that up for you...", she says. I look at her suspiciously as I hand her the wreath. Little did I know, my mother had put the wreath aside and put up her own. At the time, I had no idea. I just naturally assumed that she put it up. There was a weird feeling in our house after that. The whole family seemed to have changed.
I awoke the next morning expecting to smell breakfast. But the house was quiet. The oven was off. There were no smells. I walked into the living room and found my mother sitting in a chair near the fireplace. "Where's breakfast?", I asked. My mother always made breakfast every day for us. "You expect me to make you breakfast?", she asks angrily. "Well you always do.", I responded, "So I thought-" "You thought what?", she asks, "You thought I was your slave? Your maid?" I stepped backwards in shock. My own mother was accusing me of making her be a slave. "I wasn't saying that.", I said, "You know I wasn't." My mother stomps away angrily. I stood flabbergasted at what just happened. I went to the kitchen and made eggs for myself and prepared to eat, when my older sister came in and stole them. "Hey!", I exclaimed, "Give those back!" My sister stops in her tracks and slaps me in the face. She walks away with the eggs as I stand thoroughly confused. What was happening with everyone? I prepared to head back to my room when I came into contact with my father. "Where are you going?", he asks threateningly. "To my room.", I respond. My father pushes me to the ground and walks into the living room. "I hate this season!", he yells. He tears down the lights, the garland, the wreaths. My mom runs into the bedroom as my father knocks over the tree. "I hate it here!", he exclaims. He storms out of the house, enters his car, and drives away. I look around sorrowfully at the torn up decorations. Everything was destroyed. I then noticed a faint glow illuminating from behind the couch. I walk over to it and see my wreath laying on the ground. "She never even considered putting it up.", I say to myself. I grab the wreath and place it on the door instead of my mom's one. Even with the negativity that plagued the house, the wreath still glowed bright in the daylight. Later, as I sat in my bedroom, my mother came in. Her face is the face of regret. "I'm sorry.", she says, "I don't know what came over me earlier." I tell her that it's ok and she smiles. She leaves the room quietly and a figure appears behind her. “Uh, hi.”, says my sister. She enters and places a plate of eggs on my bed and hastily leaves without a word. I sit puzzled at what just occurred. First they were aggressive, now they are kind and caring. What was happening?
It was Christmas Eve. My mother decided not to put the decorations back up. We placed them in their storage bins and placed them aside. My mother had a sudden realization that Christmas was something more than decorations. She told us that we were to prepare a great feast to celebrate the holidays. As we sat around the table, my mother looked sorrowfully at a empty seat. My father had still not returned from wherever he went. We tried not to linger on it, but his empty seat made it useless. “He’ll return.”, says my mother, “I know he will.” I secretly did not agree with this statement, but I smiled not wanting to upset her. The food was amazing. Steaming turkey. Fresh corn. Red velvet cake. It could not have been a more extravagant day. Suddenly, the sound of a door unlocking is heard in the hallway. “What’s that?”, my sister asks. Out steps my father, snow all over his UA hoodie that he just bought. “I noticed there was a feast?”, he asks. All three of us smile as he sits down in the once empty chair. “I want to apologize.”, he says as he takes a bite of turkey, “I don’t know what came over me.” “It’s alright. We know you didn’t mean a word you said.”, says my mother. As I’m biting into a slice of cake, my father clears his throat. “I noticed something on the door I want y’all to see.” Everyone falls silent. “You mean my wreath?”, I ask quietly. “Yeah.”, my dad responds, “It’s a very beautiful wreath.” My father stands up and leads us outside to the front door, where my beautiful wreath hangs. My mother’s face turns from one of wonder to one of shock. “It’s...beautiful!”, she exclaims. As we stand marveling at the wreath hanging in front of us, my father makes a statement. “That wreath was never there before.”, he says, “As I was preparing to leave the state, everything suddenly changed. Do you think this wreath is more than it seems?” I stood pondering what he said. Everything did change when I put it up on the door. All the aggression had vanished. We all stand smiling as the wreath glows and shines in the daylight. Every Christmas since, we hang it on the door for everyone to see, and the other decorations sit in storage bins which remain in the attic to this day. And as it hangs there shining in the sun, neighbors pass by, looking at with disgust on their faces. But that is their fault. All they see is ugliness, but to us, it’s shining light.