There were rumors, of course, but no way to know for certain. If you read the pundits or
listened to the politicians on the radio, you could believe anything you wanted to believe, or fear
anything you wanted to fear. The year was 1940.
They were young and in love. Perhaps their love gave them the courage to surmount the
rumors, or perhaps it was because of the rumors that they wed on the last day of November.
On their first Christmas together they purchased a simple red foil star for their tabletop
tree. In the snapshot they stand on either side of the tree, he handsome with curly dark hair,
wearing a suit vest, and she pretty in a sequined dress.
Their first anniversary came on a Sunday and again we can believe the rumors and
threats were not foremost in their minds, because they held a new life in their arms that
day. Their first child had been born the previous Sunday. Now they were parents with a
helpless infant to love and protect.
A week later it all changed. A week later, when their daughter was exactly two weeks
old, the Japanese launched a sneak attack against the
Three weeks later the star adorned the top of their Christmas tree, though this holiday season
was fraught with worry and concern.
On their fourth Christmas the black and white photograph shows them seated with their
two-year old daughter between them in front of the tree topped with a red foil star. Eventually
the father was called to go to war. There are no photographs for several years of a tree topped
with a red star. We know it was there only through oral stories.
The father came home from the war but jobs were hard to find. The couple moved to
year the same star graced the family Christmas tree.
One season the mother brought home a beautiful angel in a white gown trimmed with
gold and decorated with spun glass. She placed it atop the Christmas tree and set aside the old
piece of red foil. The eldest of the children objected and the younger ones added their
concurrence. They wanted the red star back on their tree. The angel disappeared.
This evening, sixty-nine years after it first was placed on a tree in the home of a
hopeful, newly-wed couple, the star was once again fastened to the top of an evergreen. It bears
the signs of its age: creased, wrinkled, and flattened. The young couple is gone now, he before
she by several years. The youngest of their three daughters also is gone, well before her time.
And I, that child born two weeks before the bombing of
placed that battered star in its place of honor. As I did I thought of my parents, my brother and
sister, my nieces and nephews. Like that star, we siblings bear the signs of age, faces creased
and hands wrinkled, hopes and dreams pressed with the realities of life.
I wonder which of the nieces or nephews will take the star when I am gone? Which of
them will someday say, “This star has shone from the top of our family tree for exactly one
Emerging under a threat of war, strengthened in a move to a frontier land, unscathed by
accidental fire, wounded by untimely death, tempered by love, rewarded with allegiance, this star
has seen it all. There’s a lifetime of stories in its crinkles and creases.
Courage, strength, survival, loss, love, dedication and above all else: hope. That is the
significance of this old star atop the Christmas tree.