Iris by Nancy Springer

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Iris is an imaginative little girl with the ability to make just about anything seem to come to life when she plays with it. After Iris' death at a young age, her mother feels that there isn't much left to celebrate when it comes to the holiday season. Little does she know that Iris has one last gift to give her mother this year, and it's going to make it one Christmas to truly remember. An uplifting holiday short story.


Most old women like me don’t bother with a Christmas tree. “Like me” means on a fixed income, which equals poor, and also means getting more lonely and scared each day as the other old women you know die off. Lonely is when you buy postage stamps one at a time, so when there’s something to mail you can walk to the post office and talk to somebody. Scared is when you realize you already own all the clothes you’re ever going to need, including something decent for your funeral.

Show me some “Q-Tip,” some “wrinkly,” some small-town “senior citizen” like me who says they’re not scared of dying, and I’ll show you a liar. No matter how much peace and light some of us talk, we all go around with perturbed shadows inside us. Trust me. If you’re my age, the reason you stop bothering with a Christmas tree is because you’re scared you might not be around for another Christmas, so you try not to let Christmas matter. You make excuses. There’s not enough room in your apartment. Your back aches. It’s too much trouble. Your husband’s not around anymore to cuss and complain while he puts up the lights. Christmas is for young people and children.

You tell the kids not to get you anything. Except I only ever had one child and she died, so that takes care of that. She was hit by a pie truck, of all things. Husband died too, fell over in the middle of a Rotary Club meeting when he was fifty-four. Heart attack.

I think that’s when I started to get old. Such being the case, I have spent one-third of my life being old and I am still trying to get a handle on it.

Which brings me to this either senile or visionary business of the bottle-brush tree. Except I don’t want you thinking it took place all at once like somebody pressed a button on the back of my head, because that was not the case at all. It started way back in early summer, maybe even spring, and I didn’t even know what I wanted the bottle caps for. I mean the plastic ones off cartons of milk or orange juice. They were bright-colored circles, that’s all, and I started saving them because I just plain liked them. They gave me pleasure that didn’t cost me a penny extra. I started keeping an eye on people’s trash and recycling bins during my daily walks, because I had blue, green, orange, yellow, and white but I wanted red, pink and purple. And to make it harder and more satisfying I wanted only bottle caps with no logos or lettering. Innocent, so to speak. I kept them in a bowl in the kitchen and sometimes I’d count them or line them up by color or play with them, making the little circles into bigger circular designs on top of the table.

My little girl, Iris, when she was alive, she used to play for hours with what most people would consider trash, like oatmeal boxes or toilet paper rolls, corn cobs or maple wings. Right up till she died when she was seven, she had magic inside her head that could make just about anything alive.

Except herself after the truck ran her over.

  • Published by: Untreed Reads

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