Mari kicks her heels against the half wall puffing dust and crumbling brick. She can’t wait for the Winter Dinner to start. Lucy, her mother told her about Christmas once. She said people cut down trees and decorated them with lights and ornaments.
“What are ornaments?” Mari asks.
“Miniature things that people hung from their trees. Not unlike toys,” says Lucy.
“To remember the years before,” Lucy says.
“But kids couldn’t play with them?”
“They weren’t for that,” explains Lucy, her face sadder and uglier than usual.
“That’s stupid,” declares Mari.
“Maybe so. It certainly turned into a commercial holiday,” says Lucy in a tone that tells Mari not to ask about ‘commercial holidays’ unless she wants to listen to a boring history lesson which she doesn’t.
Even though Mari knows that trees weren’t always ugly it’s still hard to imagine a world where people would cut them down and put them inside their houses. If you did that now your home would reek of sulfur and the bark scales would leave permanent black burns on the floor. It’s stupid like the ornaments. Clearly, a lot about the old world was stupid otherwise humanity wouldn’t be in the predicament it is in now.
Mari does love watching everyone arrive for the Winter Dinner. The soft look in the younger kids eyes knowing they won’t go hungry and that there will be something in their families Winter Box just for them, something they need. Most of all though she loves the sparkle of the older girls who spend all year collecting bits of ribbon and jewelry to adorn their Winter Dinner dresses. Secretly Mari has already begun her collection and what she really can’t wait for is the year she’s finally old enough to wear her own dress, the year she’ll outshine them all.