c. December 1947


"Come, liebchen."

"What is it, Papa? What have you gotten?"

"Come and see."

She pouted. "But I will not know the whole thing!"

He rolled his eyes. "You are more intelligent than that, child."

She carefully walked forward, her hands held out before her.

He stood still, watching her approach. "Continue – you will reach it soon."

She carefully felt her way forward a few more feet, jerking back when her palms hit the sharp needles of the Christmas tree her adopted father had set up. "Ach – it hurts!"

He smiled slightly. "Yes – the spines are quite sharp." He reached for her hand and carefully pulled it down the tree. "But if you would not drag them backward, they are smooth."

"Doesn't it have leaves?"

"Sharp ones."

"Why, Papa?"

"Why does a thorn have roses, kleine?"

"To prick me!"

His smile spread. "Perhaps."

"What is it, Papa?" She pulled her hands back and stepped sideways to him, twisting her hands in his jumper.

He glanced down. "It is a fir tree – an evergreen. Unlike the deciduous trees such as Oak and maple, it has no inclination to shed its greenery once a year."

"..never?"

"Not until it changes its gown for a red one – and then it will live no more."

"Oh." She sobered. "That is sad."

"That is life, child."

She thought a moment, and then tugged his jumper slightly as she remembered something. "Papa – Papa! Is it as that song?"

"I am hardly able to read your mind..."

She hesitated, trying to recall the song she remembered. "Die hoffnung und beständigkeit gibt but und kraft zu jeder zeit..."

He joined her, continuing the song: "O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, dein kleid will mich was lehren!"

She nodded rapidly. "Ja! Ja, Papa. Will you decorate it?"

He nodded, even though she couldn't see it. "Ja – and I shall expect your help, liebchen."

She grinned. "Will there be candles and tinsel?"

"And a star. Which you shall put on."

She laughed, clapping her hands. "Tell me – Papa, please. Tell me what it looks like!"

He knelt down beside her, looking up at the tree from her level. "It is a little taller than I am. It is a triangular shape -"

"It is not smooth, though."

"But were you to place a triangle – or rather, a cone – around it, it would fit. It is a dark green colour, but it will turn brown and it's needles will fall off -"

"Why, Papa?"

"Because I have no way of ensuring that it continues to live."

"Oh. Then we have killed it?"

"Ja – but it would have died regardless."

"That is sad."

"That is life."

"Is it prickly all the way through?"

"Hardly. There is a trunk in the centre, and the needles go not that far within."

"But the branches are so low, Papa! How can it have a trunk?"

"Even the tall trees have trunks in the centre of their branches."

"Truly?"

"Would I lie to you about something so insignificant?"

"Nein!"

"Then you have your answer."

She smiled, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck. "Danke, Vater."

He smiled slightly in return. "Bitte schonn. But we must have somewhere for the gifts to be placed, ja?"

"...but what if there are none?"

"You will have one, kleine."

She ducked her head down.

He sighed, lifting her as he stood up again. "Marta. Have you been obedient?"

"I tried to."

"Have you lied or coveted another's things?"

"...ja."

"And did you apologise and ask forgiveness?"

She nodded.

"Then there will be no sticks for you – he will understand that you have tried quite hard for your age."

"Truly?"

"Liebchen..."

She hugged him again, lying her head down on his shoulder. "Danke."

He shook his head slightly, looking at the tree. "It is Nicolastag, child – you need not thank me for something every child has."

she smiled slightly, begin to drift off. "I didn't know of it..."

He sighed. "But the war is over now, liebchen; and we are safe." he rocked slightly on his feet. "Sleep, kleine – we will decorate tomorrow, ja?"

"Ja, Vater. Guten nacht..."

"Guten nacht, child."


AN: She's only about seven years old. They might be in West Germany – but certainly not in East. 12-26-2015