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Warmest regards: The yellowed marshmallow drummer boy

Published December 15. 2018 07:41AM


By Pattie Mihalik

Every year since forever, “getting a Christmas tree” meant going to a tree farm, chopping down a big, perfectly shaped tree, then happily lugging it home.

In times past the tree had to be live and it had to be big.

All that changed when Andy died. I no longer wanted a big tree.

One day I wished out loud to my wonderful friend Mary, telling her I wanted to find a suitable bare birch tree so I could decorate it with birds. I needed a departure from the norm.

When I came home from work, Mary had a surprise for me. There in the living room was my desired birch tree. Mary was always good at making miracles.

After I moved to the Land of Perpetual Sunshine I continued the bird tree tradition, decorating an artificial palm tree.

This year, I did something different. I bought a pre-lit white Christmas tree with blue lights, decorating it in a blue and silver theme, along with my favorite birds, of course.

There’s one ornament on my tree that isn’t blue or silver and has nothing to do with birds. It’s my old marshmallow drummer boy ornament that I bought 50 years ago.

After half a century I can still vividly remember the day I bought it. At the time, we had two small children and little money, too little to splurge on luxuries.

At the time, spending $2 for the pretty ornament was a luxury we couldn’t afford. I put it down and walked out of the store, only to go back in because I couldn’t resist buying it. Every year since, it’s been part of my Christmas tree.

It has now turned yellow with age and is missing one eye. But it continues to hold a hallowed place in the center of my tree and in my heart.

It reminds me of old times, and when I look at it, I can’t help but smile.

David suggested we don’t put up a tree this year because we will be traveling so much. Nothing doing. I wanted the tree.

While I do like looking at the pretty tree, I know any tree is not the best about this time of year.

I like seeing how Christmas brings out the best in some people.

There was one example of that at our local Walmart store. A little girl stood before the lighted trees, begging her mom to buy one. The mother gently explained she didn’t have money to buy a tree.

She was honest in telling the child if she bought the tree there would be no money for presents. When the little girl howled in protest, her mother took her outside to calm down.

When mother and child walked back into Walmart, an elderly couple greeted them with a shopping cart filled with a Christmas tree. They handed the mother a paid receipt, wished her a Merry Christmas, and quickly walked away.

I love seeing that spirit of Christmas.

A 78-year-old Whitehall resident sent me the nicest letter telling about her own time of need and how she solved it.

When she and her husband had young children, they too had times of hardship when her husband’s serious illness meant there was no money for Christmas gifts.

“I was trying to figure out how I was going to have money for presents for the boys and my little girl,” she wrote.

She solved it when she remembered the only valuable thing she had to sell — the precious charm bracelet her husband gave her after the birth of their children.

“It broke my heart to give it up as it was precious to me,” she wrote. She bought the four children sweatshirts that said, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

Some things we never can forget.

A volunteer for St. Vincent DePaul in our town will never forget the experience he had this year while he was helping a woman who came to ask for groceries and some needed household items.

The mother had brought along her 6-year-old son who chatted with the volunteer while their food was being packed. The boy said he longed for a Spider-Man bike, but his mom said they didn’t have the money for it.

Please know that St. Vincent DePaul never stocks children’s bikes. “The few bikes that are given to us go to families needing the bikes for transportation. We don’t have room to stock children’s bikes, and I certainly never saw a Spider-Man bike,” he said.

Here’s the important part of his story. As he walked the mother through the building with her groceries, he looked to the side of a room and saw a child’s bike. Most miraculous of all, it was a child’s Spider-Man bike.

No, it wasn’t Santa Claus at work.

We believe it was the true Giver of Gifts — the reason for our Christmas season.

“How else can you explain a child’s bike being in that exact spot when we don’t keep them on hand?” the volunteer asked. “The fact that it was the Spider-Man bike the child longed for made it all the more amazing.”

Well, it’s the season when there are Christmas decorations that say, “Believe.” Our development has the word “Believe” spelled out in big lights.

And some of us have the word blazing in our hearts.

Contact Pattie Mihalik at


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