The Christmas Bird
Chop! The fir tree lurched with each bite of the axe. Finally, down it went and snow exploded up into the late afternoon sky. Children and grownups clapped and cheered. They grabbed ropes and towed the tree to the house. But the tree wasn’t all they brought back.
The chickadee was fast asleep, tucked deep into the branches of the fir. To survive the frosty nights, he went into a deep sleep, his feet clasped tightly around a branch. With his feathers fluffed up he remained motionless throughout the dark hours, nearly lifeless.
The tree was decorated with strings of cranberries and popcorn. Candles were carefully clipped onto the branches and soon the tree glowed. Songs and laughter filled the room as the wood stove crackled in the background.
Finally the family slept, leaving the tree silent and dark. Slowly, the warmth of the house filled the chickadee and he awoke from his nightly hibernation. Unclenching his toes, he danced along the strings of cranberries and popcorn, enjoying the meal. He didn’t see the boy tiptoe into the room.
“A bird! A Christmas bird!” he whispered.
A child of the forest himself, he quickly filled a saucer with water for the chickadee. The bird cocked its head, then perched on the rim to ease his thirst.
The child remained perfectly still, afraid to scare the precious creature.
“Thank you. Thank you for coming,” the boy whispered. “You’re my Christmas gift from Sarah. She was tiny like you but now she’s gone.”
He hiccupped a quiet sob and wiped a tear. Careful not to frighten his guest, he unwound the popcorn decorations and pulled them outside to adorn a new tree. The chickadee chased the cranberries across the floor but stopped when he felt the rush of cold. He fluffed his feathers, then took off for the new Christmas tree and disappeared into the protection of the needles.
The boy watched the chickadee return to the wood. A smile played across his face when he heard the bird give a final, sleepy chirp.
“Merry Christmas, Sarah!” he said and returned home.