Lynn B. Connor
The Peacock on Top of the Christmas Tree
“That is really weird! Why do you have a peacock on top of your Christmas tree, Emily?” Sasha asked.
“What’s wrong with a peacock?” six year old Emily replied. “It’s always been there.”
“Christmas trees have angels or stars on top. Not a peacock!”.
“The peacock is beautiful. It has some red and green feathers. They are Christmas colors.”
“It’s still weird.”
When Sasha went home, Emily asked her mother, “Why do we put a peacock on the top of our Christmas tree?”
Her mother replied, “Go ask your father.”
“Ask me what?”
“Daddy, why do we have a peacock on top of our Christmas tree? Sasha says it’s weird.”
“It’s just different,” her father replied.
“Why do we have one on top of our tree?”
“It all started a long, long time ago. We lived in Japan when I was six.”
“Do they put peacocks on top of Christmas trees in Japan?”
“Why did you do it?”
“Just listen, Emily. The weather had turned cold. The days were getting shorter. I was thinking about Christmas. Bright colored lights. Christmas cookies. Decorating a tree and Santa Claus. When I walked to school, I didn’t see Christmas lights anywhere. I didn’t see any Christmas trees. It didn’t feel like Christmas.
“I asked my mother, your grandmother, ‘Where are we going to get a Christmas tree?’
“She said, ‘I don’t know. Let’s go shopping and ask,’ We asked at the corner market.
“The vegetable man said ‘I don’t know. We celebrate New Year, not Christmas.’
“The butcher said, ‘I don’t know’.
“The fish man said, ‘I don’t know.’
“Even the flower seller said, ‘I don’t know. Perhaps they will know at the flower market where I buy my flowers.’
“We took a bus to the flower market. We walked around and around. We didn’t see any Christmas trees. In a corner I saw a tree. Mother picked it up to turn it around and look at it. It was really two very straggly trees. We bought one. It was a pretty ugly tree!
“The bus driver wouldn’t let us get on the bus with the tree. He said, ‘Walk home with that tree. I don’t want needles on my bus.’
“Taxis would not stop for us. It was getting dark and Mother was beginning to worry. A curious taxi driver stopped and agreed to take us and the tree home.
“Mother got out the two strands of lights she had brought from America and put them on the tree. I asked, ‘Where are all the red, green, gold and silver glass balls?’
“Mother said, ‘I didn’t bring them. I thought they might break and we really didn’t have room for them, but don’t worry.’ She got a roll of string and a box from behind the sliding doors. ‘We will decorate the tree with small Japanese toys. I will put string on them and you can hang them on the tree.’
“There were twelve six inch dolls dressed in bright colored kimonos. A papier-mâché tiger with a bobbing head. Maneki-neko, a little clay cat waving his paw. A small wooden horse. Paper dolls made of pretty folded paper with round wooden heads. Two roly-poly daruma dolls that popped back up if you pushed them over. And a straw farmer and farm woman. That is how we decorated the tree.”
“What about the peacock, Daddy?”
“We didn’t have a star or an angel. We just left the top of the tree empty.”
“Daddy, the peacock!”
“Well, the next day at school sensei, teacher, gave each of us a present. Mine was a beautiful feathered peacock. I rushed home. ‘Mother, look what I have for the top of our tree!’ “
She looked at me and she looked at the peacock, ‘A peacock on top of the Christmas tree? That’s weird.’
My dad smiled and lifted me up so that I could put the peacock on the top of the tree.
“Then, when your mom and I got married, I wanted my peacock for our tree. So one Christmas we went and got the peacock from Grandma and Grandpa’s Christmas tree. And that is why we have a peacock on the top of our Christmas tree.”
“Daddy, does anyone else have a peacock on top of their Christmas tree?”
“I’ve never seen another one. Have you?”
Author’s Statement on Beauty
You can’t put beauty in a box. It can be soft and gentle. It can be bright and bold. It can evoke a smile, joy, a sense of wonder, or even a touch of melancholy as you watch the fleeting moment of a cherry blossom falling. Beauty captures the heart.
Lynn B. Connor with degrees in East Asian history planned to be an academic. That idea was short-lived. She realized sharing stories that explore other times and places with children (and grownups, too) is what she enjoyed. The Portland LanSu Garden published her first book, The Stones and the Poet, based on a ninth century Chinese poem. Her work has appeared in Poet Lore, Rain, Squid and other journals. More at: lynnbconnor.com.