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Feel the excitement of the ornament

Editor’s note: This is the first chapter of a 12-part continuing, fictional holiday tale, “The Golden Ornament” that is running daily through Christmas. Parents are encouraged to read it aloud to their children.

The annual lighting of the town square Christmas tree was the night Mia looked forward to most each year.

The small town of Winter Falls knew how to do Christmas right. It was the kind of town where everyone knew each other, whose residents were friendly and giving, especially around the holidays.

Every year, Mia walked down to the center of town with her mom and watched her pick an ornament off the beautifully decorated tree. Anyone who wanted to take an ornament was welcome to, and each contained a secret wish or need of someone else in town. Mia always loved helping her mom with her Christmas deed each year.

One year, their mission was to buy toys for the Olsen boys after Mr. Olsen lost his job. Another year was helping Mr. Johnson after his heart surgery by making meals for him twice a week. Mia’s favorite was the year they got to help out at Cameron’s Animal Sanctuary. Tending to all the animals was so much fun that her mom and the Camerons eventually let her go help out on her own.

But this year was more exciting than any other. Now that Mia was 12 years old, her mom was finally letting her pick her very own ornament.

She was full of anticipation and excitement when they arrived, and everything was as it always was. Christmas carols sounded from speakers on each side of the square. Hot chocolate carts sent the heavenly smell of cocoa through the cold windy air, mixing with the scents of chestnuts and popcorn.

In the center of it all, surrounded by painted wooden presents, was this year’s Christmas tree. It rose high into the sky and was layered with unlit twinkle lights and silver garland. The signature red and green hollow ornaments were carefully placed on the tree, their Christmas needs nestled safely inside waiting to be picked.

Volunteers were walking around passing out candles to everyone. They would soon be lit, and the crowd would surround the tree to sing “O Christmas Tree” as the strands of lights came to life.

Mia saw her best friend, Brandon, lingering by the cookie stand. His little sister Ellie stood in her usual position at his side, tugging on his coat for a warm snickerdoodle. Their father was in the military and away more than he was home, so ever since Ellie was born, he’d stepped up and helped his mom take care of her. He’d been there for Mia five years ago when her dad passed away; he barely left her side for the first few months after. Mia’s grandmother moved in to help until they got back on their feet, but they loved having her there so much that she never left. Mia adored her family and friends, and knew how fortunate she was to have so many people to love.

“I want two cookies, Brandon,” Mia heard Ellie whine as she approached.

Mia took the cookie Brandon was already handing to her, anticipating her arrival. Then he passed one to Ellie and smiled, unfazed by her tantrum.

“Big turnout this year,” Mia said, gesturing at the crowd.

He shrugged as they walked toward the giant tree. “Same people every year. The whole town is here,” he said between bites of popcorn.

“I know, but this is the year, Brandon!” Mia said excitedly. “It’s going to be so great. I just know it.”

“Why are you so excited to do this on your own? It’s actual work, you know. You’ll have to, like, do people’s chores and stuff.”

“I know, but maybe it’s going to be baking! Or reading to someone! Or who knows, maybe I’ll get to go shopping or tutor or decorate for Christmas.” Mia’s eyes sparkled and Brandon laughed as he shook his head.

“Or maybe it will be picking up doggie doo doo or cleaning old smelly food out of a fridge.”

Mia snorted and playfully hit his arm. Her mom joined them and passed them each a candle, followed by Brandon and Ellie’s mom. People started passing their lit candles to their neighbors until every single person stood with a flame in the darkness.

The Christmas memory that Mia looked most forward to making every year was about to begin, and she was sure this year would be the most magical of them all.

Read the next chapter of “The Golden Ornament” tomorrow in The Vindicator.

Read the next chapter of “The Golden Ornament” tomorrow in the Tribune Chronicle.

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