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Money grew on trees

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Money grew on trees

  1. 1. Christmas is such a magical time. Wouldn't you agree? When I think back to all of the Christmas season's that I've lived through, one stands out the most. A Christmas like no other. I was still a little girl, and Christmas vacation had just started. We lived in the city, in an old broken down apartment complex called Sunsweet Villa. The alley's between buildings were always filled with the sound of kids, and basketballs, and were constantly crowded by passersby, and the occasional tin can or two. It wasn't much, but it was home to myself and several of my friends, who frequently played in the big court yard. I lived in the apartment on the far left of the yard. My best friend Christopher lived on my right, and Ms. Lynn lived on the other side of him. She was a nice old lady. Everyday she watched us play tag or frisbee through her kitchen window. She never talked to us, or ever really smiled, but I saw her laughing once when Christopher got his underpants caught on a swing. Mother said that she was just sad, because her husband had died. I waved to her every morning. On the other side of Ms. Lynn lived another one of my friends, Sommer. She was really good at playing Jacks, and she always seemed to be wearing the same pink shirt. Didn't matter a bit to us. My favorite shirt was red. Sommer's apartment was on the far left side of the yard. Across the way lived Nicholas. He was a rowdy boy, who was always the champ of "King of the Mountain." He was big for his age, and while he was around, none of the other court yard bullies ever tried to bother us. His next door neighbor was a little girl named Jordan. She never came out side, just like Ms. Lynn, but we could all tell that she wanted to. We played Jacks with her outside her bedroom window sometimes, and it was hard for her to lean out, since she was crippled, and unable to use her legs, but she still usually won. Next door to Jordan lived Mrs. Hubbard. She had six kids, and Nicholas used to tease
  2. 2. her because she was just like to nursery rhyme. I think his mother grounded him for that often. Two of Mrs. Hubbard's kids were babies, and it always seemed like they would cry at the same time every afternoon. My mother said that you could set your watch by them. Whatever that meant. This story is dedicated to the memory of Robert L. McCarter This story may not be reprinted in whole or in part without consent. For ages: 8 and up. In the second to the last apartment, a teenage boy named Andrew lived. He was a great singer. His favorites were several beat up old records that he played on an ancient record player that his mother had bought for him at a garage sale. Sometimes we sang with him. We weren't very good, but there was just something amazing about all of us singing together. Even the birds stopped to listen. At night, Andrew would sing the old ballads of yesterday, which Mrs. Hubbard loved, because it helped to put her babies right to sleep. The very last apartment belonged to Derrick. He was a man only slightly younger than my mother and father. He talked to us whenever we wanted him to, and he was the one who had taught us how to play so many games. But, all he ever did was wash and wax his car. Really. Every single day, unless it was raining, or very cold he would stand outside and "baby" as he called it, his car. My father said that since Derek lost his coaching job at the high school, that taking care of that old car was the only thing he had left to do. So, like I said, Christmas vacation had just started, and excitement hung in the air like a dense fog. We wouldn't get many presents, but we would all walk down the street to the "nice" neighborhood, and look at Christmas lights shortly after dusk. It was an event not to be missed. We had all made plans to go that night, but for right now, it was game time. "Hey Khrys!" yelled Christopher from across the yard. I turned, and looked in his direction. "What?" I called back. "Wanna play four square?" he asked. I thought for a moment, and shrugged my head. "Sure," I answered. I began to saunter over, when I noticed Derrick at his post. His car sparkled in the sun. "Hey Derrick, ya think you can fix my bike?" I asked. He turned his head towards me. "What's wrong with it?" I stood next to the left fender of his car, and drew a picture in the wax with my finger. Derrick's eagle eye zeroed in on my Picasso, and he walked over to where I was, and buffed it out. I laughed. "Well," I started. "I think the chain's all messed up or something. The peddles just don't work right." Derrick gritted his teeth over a scratch, and then said, "Yeah, I'll look at it as soon as I'm done here." I
  3. 3. thanked him, and began to make my way over to Christopher "Hey Khrys!" yelled Christopher from across the yard. I turned, and looked in his direction. "What?" I called back. "Wanna play four square?" he asked. I thought for a moment, and shrugged my head. "Sure," I answered. I began to saunter over, when I noticed Derrick at his post. His car sparkled in the sun. "Hey Derrick, ya think you can fix my bike?" I asked. He turned his head towards me. "What's wrong with it?" I stood next to the left fender of his car, and drew a picture in the wax with my finger. Derrick's eagle eye zeroed in on my Picasso, and he walked over to where I was, and buffed it out. I laughed. "Well," I started. "I think the chain's all messed up or something. The peddles just don't work right." Derrick gritted his teeth over a scratch, and then said, "Yeah, I'll look at it as soon as I'm done here." I thanked him, and began to make my way over to Christopher. "Derrick gonna fix your bike?" he asked. "Yeah," I said. "In a little while." We were joined by Nicholas and "Now what are we going to do?" asked Sommer. She sat on the sidewalk outside of Jordan's window, and drew a picture with a white rock. "We can play basketball," suggested Nicholas. "I don't feel like keeping score today," said Jordan. "I wish it were night time already," I said as I held my head in my hands. "Me too," said Christopher, just as glum. "Well, started Jordan. "We can pretend that it's already night time." We all raised our heads to look at her. "Huh?" questioned Nicholas. "We can pretend that it's night time," she repeated. "How do we do that?" asked Sommer. Jordan thought for a moment, and then brightened. "Why don't we decorate the big tree in the court yard? We can make it look just like a real Christmas Tree!" We all looked at each other for a moment, and then jumped up laughing. Jordan disappeared inside her window, and when she returned , her arms were full of decorating goodies. She had several plastic and felt flowers, a few beaded necklaces, pink cotton balls, and a roll of tin foil, which she began to roll into balls. I went inside my apartment, and grabbed a pair of scissors, several sheets of construction paper, a few markers, and all the crayons that I could find. When my mother asked what I was up to, I told her, and she gathered up a box of different colored shoe strings. I was
  4. 4. amazed that there were so many. "Where did they all come from?" I asked. "From you," she answered. "From all of your shoes. I always kept the shoe strings just in case When I stepped outside, I was amazed by what I saw. Dozens of people were in the courtyard, laughing and singing. Nicholas and Christopher had gone door to door to get everyone to help with the make-shift Christmas Tree. I laid my box of shoe strings and paper onto a table that Mrs. Hubbard had brought outside. Two of her oldest kids began to cut out ornaments, and paper snow and another took the box of strings and rubber bands over to the tree, where the crowd hanged them next to Jordan's foil. Derrick brought out several pine scented car fresheners, and hung them in the branches. He was the tallest person among us, so he helped to put all of the high stuff up. Suddenly, there was music. I looked to where it was coming from and smiled . Andrew has set his record player on his porch, and tu "Why don't you hang these up too dear," said a voice behind me. It was Ms. Lynn, and in her hands was an old string of Christmas lights. That was it! Just what this tree needed. "Here, I'll plug them in for you," said my dad. He went inside, and plugged the lights into an extension cord. The bulbs sprang to life. Only half of them worked, but it was just enough. My mom placed an arm around Ms. Lynn's shoulders, as Derek and my dad wrapped the lights around the tree. Everyone seemed to quiet down once the lights went up. Like it was a signal or something. I heard a noise behind me, and turned. It seemed that everyone else did too. It was Jordan's daddy walking out of his front door, and in his arms, wrapped snugly in a blanket, was Jordan. He walked slowly up to the tree. "Go ahead honey" he said to her. She stretched out her hand and hung a small, pink, pair of ballerina slippers on a low branch. Jordan had been a dancer when she could still walk. They turned around, and he placed Jordan in a chair that someone had just brought out for her. Her daddy sat down beside her. The record player was still on. The song Silent Night suddenly filled the air, and Andrew began to sing along. His voice was a perfect tenor, and nothing had ever seemed so beautiful. One by one, new voices were added, and soon we all became a choir. Nearly every adult surrounding the Christmas tree had tears of joy staining their cheeks, and as I looked, I saw
  5. 5. that Nicholas did too. He looked back at me and just shrugged. It was okay. The moment was ours, or so we thought. As we looked around it seemed that there were many strange faces in the crowd. People had come from the "nice neighborhood" down the road.. "I hope they don't think our Christmas tree is dumb since they have more money than us." said Sommer. She looked nervously at all the new people. "Who cares! " scoffed Christopher. "It's ours." He slapped her on the back and began to sing loudly to the tune of Jingle Bell Rock. The atmosphere turned from somber to festive, and everyone began talking and laughing again. Several people began to set up tables and chairs, and I think I started to drool, because some of the new people were setting up bowls of food like a buffet. It wasn't long before we all had a feast fit for a king. As dusk set in , more lights went up, and more bellies were filled. It seemed like everyone from the "nice neighborhood" were coming down the road to visit us, instead of us visiting them. "Ohhhhhhh," moaned Nicholas, as he grabbed his stomach. Christopher and I began to giggle. "He's going to explode," shrieked Jordan. I felt like I was going to blow up myself. "Hey!" yelled Derrick. "The news people are here!" Christopher and I exchanged glances. "News People?" we both said in wonder. "Woo-hoo! I'm going to be famous!" said Sommer. "Me too!" said Jordan. They were both very excited. Christopher managed to pull Nicholas to his feet, and then two of them ran over to where the news team from Channel 5 were setting up. "It's just about six, will we make tonights news cast?" asked Jordan's mother. "We will if its live," answered Derrick. "Oh my goodness...Live TV! How does my hair look? Is it all right? She ran her fingers quickly through her hair. "It looks fine Becky," my mother soothed. "Here they come!" shouted Derrick. A busy looking woman in a red suit came walking over in our direction. Before I knew it , her microphone was pushed in my direction. She wanted to know how all of this happened. "Well," I stammered. "It was Jordan's idea. We were all bored and wanted to find something to do" She asked a bunch of other questions. She was
  6. 6. just amazed that we had done this. It didn't seem amazing to us. The reporter spoke back into the camera. "It is just an extraordinary example of the Christmas Spirit Tom," she said. "These people have nothing but each other, and have managed not only to survive, but to create something here today that rival's even the richest of atmosphere's. Reporting live for Channel 5, I'm Rhonda North. Back to you Tom. The camera man signaled that they were off the air. The reporter sighed, and then turned back to us. "Thank you for your interview, " she said to me. "It just seems so unbelievable that this has happened." She gestured with her arm toward the hundreds of people at the party going on around us. By this time it was fully dark, and strings of white, blue, red, green, and pink lights were everywhere. It was truly an amazing sight. "We were just going to decorate," I said quietly. "We didn't have much, but money doesn't grow on trees you know." The reporter looked silently back at me for a moment and seemed to grow very thoughtful. Finally she tore her eyes away from mine and stepped up to this now overly decorated Christmas Tree. Her hand slipped into her coat pocket and when it came out it held several dollar bills. She pinned them to the colored paper ornaments. "It does now." she said. Rhonda North from Channel 5 turned, and walked back to her news truck. In the wake of her departure, several other people stepped up to the tree with money in their hands. Strangers who had seen the live news cast only moments ago, were walking into the very crowded court yard. Trucks rolled up to the curb, and toys and other presents were unloaded for us. A grocery store representative brought bags of groceries for all of our empty cupboards. A music store manager brought a shiny new keyboard for Andrew, and an ambulance arrived with a wheel chair for Jordan. "All of our dreams are coming true," cried my mother with tears rolling down her face. "Yeah," agreed Nicholas. "We have the most expensive Christmas Tree on the block!" Everyone howled with laughter, and the singing started up again. This time the song was, O Christmas Tree. We had the most amazing Christmas that year, and it changed all of our lives. Mrs. Hubbard and her husband moved shortly after that Winter because Mr. Hubbard got a brand new job as an ad executive in New York City. They have four grandchildren now, and two on the way.
  7. 7. Andrew and Derrick also enjoyed good fortune later in life. Derrick started his own body shop business, and is now the most successful body shop in L.A. Andrew was "discovered" by a talent scout who happened to see the news broadcast that night. His songs are always on the radio. Ms. Lynn's granddaughter also watched the news that night, and shortly after came to live with her. Ms. Lynn was never lonely ever again. She died later that year, and we all attended her funeral. Jordan ended up playing basketball in the special Olympics for years. Now she is a youth leader, and a basketball coach for disabled children. Sommer also became a basketball player, and now plays in the WNBA. Christopher is a firefighter and Nicholas became a policeman, both were decorated recently for bravery. And for me, well, I think it's obvious what happened to me. I became a writer. Merry Christmas and Goodnight. But if money really did grow on trees, I would end world hunger and have peace on earth. It could happen - if we all pitch in.

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