Cinnamon Girl: A Thornton Vermont Christmas Story, Part 3
Patty grinned. “Because Mom’s not home to remind you, I’m leaving in three days, and we’ll be with Gary’s family for Christmas, and Joe will probably forget what day it is. If we don’t get you a Christmas tree now, you won’t have one at all, and that’s just sad.” She stopped, hands on her hips, and peered through the row at an eight footer a few feet away. “That one.”
Walt followed the line of her gaze and approached the tree in question. “This one?”
“Yes.” One of the kids squealed from somewhere behind them, and Patty hollered back without looking. “Leave your sister alone.”
Walt knelt under the tree, shaking some of the snow off the boughs before he notched the hand saw into the bark. “You know mom’s going to stay with Aunt Yolie. There’s no point in a tree at the farm.”
His sister was uncharacteristically silent. He heard her boots crunching through the snow toward him. Her voice, when she spoke, was gentle. “Mom can’t hide herself away with at Yolie’s for the rest of her life.”
Walt finished notching the tree, then eased out from underneath it to hand the saw to Patty. “Hold that.”
Patty took the saw. “Okay, fine. Mom probably will stay with Yolie in town.”
Walt took the saw back and crawled under on the other side of the trunk to finish the job.
“You could always invite that pretty redhead from the funeral over to help you trim your tree.”
Walt’s head snapped up and he thwacked it on a low branch, muttering a curse in Patty’s direction as the remaining snow in the boughs fell on him with a soft whump.
Patty and the kids laughed; Walt couldn’t help grinning at himself. “Thanks, Sissy. I needed that.”
“The laugh or the tree?” Patty asked, nudging her kids back into the snow to play.
Walt looked between the kids wrestling in the dirty track and his sister standing over the fallen fir, and channeled the memory of his Pop—intentionally this time. “Ayuh.”
Patty’s eyes misted over. “Let’s get this tree back to the truck.” She brushed away the emotion and hollered again at the kids. “Ellen, Alex, back to the truck!”
Walt grabbed the tree by a lower branch and dragged it along. When he caught up to Patty, she gave him a sly look.
“Who is the redhead anyhow?”
His cold-stung cheeks warmed a bit. “Molly Sanders.”
“She’s pretty. How’d you meet?”
“You remember the day I stranded the truck out by the bridge?” He paused; Patty nodded. “Molly and her cousin Jane picked me up and brought me back to the farm.”
Patty rounded on him. “You met that girl last week?”
Walt stopped. “Yeah, why?”
“Not every girl shows up at a family funeral for a second look. Unless you were slipping out at night to meet her after Thanksgiving?”
“Patty.” They’d eaten the holiday meal around the kitchen table, too sad and tired to put much into it.
Patty clicked her tongue. “You’re a goner.”
“Uncle Walt! Look!” Alex, six, came barreling back to them, holding a robin’s nest in his mittened hands.
“Hold onto that,” Patty said. “They’re good luck in a Christmas tree, and your uncle’s going to need it.”
Walt shook his head, but he didn’t argue. Patty started walking again, but stopped after a few steps to turn back to him. “Invite her over to trim the tree.”
He didn’t have the heart to tell his sister that Molly Sanders was probably back at her college in Saratoga Springs, and not likely to waste much more time on a homebody like him.