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A candy cane hanging on a Christmas tree

A candy cane hanging on a Christmas tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was Christmas Eve, 1979. Kara, Melissa and I, were enjoying the night at our grandparent‘s home. Every Christmas, we loved lying under the Christmas tree while looking up from the trunk, admiring the lights from an unusual angle in which only the smaller family members had the privilege to observe. Each year, our grandparents decorated their Christmas tree with several small candy canes, which would taunt us girls like ripened fruit, dangling from its branches. My siblings and I had a predictable habit of slinking around the inside of the tree and stealing the candy; therefore,  it was common for us to get into trouble for it. But this time it was the last straw and our grandmother told us we wouldn’t get Christmas if we had taken one more candy cane from the tree!

I decided to “be good” by lying on the living room floor and watching a Christmas special instead of tormenting myself under the tree, when Kara had approached me regarding our youngest sister Melissa, who was hiding in the stairwell. I was led to Melissa who was in tears, when Kara explained to me that they had gotten into the candy canes, and like greedy little squirrels preparing for a long winter, both of my sisters had shoved as many candy canes into their mouths as they could make off with; however, Melissa had gotten one of the candy canes stuck painfully across the roof of her mouth. In an effort to avoid having their shenanigans exposed to any older relatives who would enforce our grandmother’s threat of revoking our Christmas, I formed a hook with my fore finger and bravely risked being bitten by placing it into Melissa’s sticky, drooly, trap, then I pulled the candy from her face.
And that my friends, is one of the few memories I have of Melissa, and how I saved Christmas.

In 1980, it was the worst Thanksgiving ever. My youngest sister, Melissa had been sick and was taken to the hospital due to an uncontrollable fever.
I remember on that day, my other sister, Kara and I were drawing and coloring out Thanksgiving pictures for Melissa with the idea that it was temporary and our little sister would get better.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. For the first time it was okay for Kara and I to go into our grandparent’s room.  Kara and I sat on our grandparent’s bed and our mother closed the door. Our mother just stood there, silently trying to gain her composure. Kara and I just sat, it was awkward. Our mother could barely speak without choking. Then, she gathered us in her arms and quietly broke the news to us; she said, ” Melissa won’t be coming home.” At first, I thought it was that she wouldn’t be having Thanksgiving with us; but, our mother further explained that Melissa had passed away.
Our mother was understandably tearful, Kara and I were in shock.  When we left the room,  the crayons didn’t seem so vibrant anymore. We were seated at the table where the turkey was dead. The potatoes were dead. Everything was dead. And there we were, expected to carry on in life while consuming dead things. Happy Thanksgiving.