Morning came and there was a scraggly evergreen in the room. Something sawed down on the land where they were staying. It was a large tree but it certainly didn’t look like the kind you saw in a store window. The tree reminded her more of the kind you would see in a black and white movie. Simple, with ornaments sparsely scattered. Loose silver tinsel dripped from it’s branches. Imperfectly wrapped presents stacked under it’s limbs.
Growing up, Halloween was always her favorite holiday. She loved painting pumpkins, going through corn mazes and wearing a costume. Christmas was fun but it was never at the top of her list, which is probably strange for a child. She knew her friends thought it was weird. Maybe it was because she also got presents in the fall being an October baby, so getting presents two months later wasn’t as big of a deal. She knew part of it was that she certainly hated the cold. They rarely got snow in Oklahoma and she just didn’t see the point of it being cold if they still had to go to school and couldn’t even build a snowman.
There were several memories however, of cold November and December evenings looking up at the stars through a heavy pair of binoculars on top of the hill, gravel beneath her feet. She started learning her constellations but typically had a hard time finding them without a little help. She would wander back down the hill, her tiny hand in her daddy’s large fingers, to the little two-bedroom farm house where her grandmother now lived. Staying in the country meant bathing every night, even in the cold weather. She’d wait in the metaphorical line for the one pale pink bathtub, sitting in the warm lamp light of the living room, braided rugs on the floor in front of the large brown propane heater. The blue flames engulfed the intricate design of the white bricks, clicking on and off.
There were evenings crowded around the small television, watching whichever football game was on. Teams didn’t particularly matter, as long as there was a game. Blankets and pillows lined the floor, not having enough seating for so many visitors, but no one really cared. Laughter and yelling at bad calls filled the small house. The little girl never really understood the game, choosing instead to quietly make houses out of cards, balancing them between the braids of the rug. They were covered with a bright turquoise rooster, which seemed fitting for a deck of cards at a farm.
Other nights there were bonfires. Sometimes there was even snow. One year in particular, it seemed there were feet of snow, although to her tiny frame inches probably seemed like feet. Grandmother hadn’t been on the farm long at that time and there were still cows in the pastures. Her uncles pulled square hay bales out of the barn loft, circling them around the large fire pit that was only just scaring the earth.
She was all bundled up in her coat from school. Grandmother always made sure she had on a stocking cap and mittens. Brown bottles of beer sat neck deep in the drifts behind the bales, staying icy cold until someone was thirsty. They were probably roasting weenies and catching their marshmallows on fire, something that she never fully appreciated until a much older age. This was her life. This was her normal. It never occurred to her that someone else’s could be so different.