Auntie Mae’s Various Ramblings on Life in a Small Town

Ida Mae Nowes

Nubbins Special Correspondent 

Since I bought a new car last month, my young neighbor Johnny Mac has been hounding me to take him for a ride in “Bubbles,” the name I gave to the champagne-colored sedan. 

I know Johnny Mac will soon be too old to hang out with anyone as uncool as I am, so I decided to take advantage of the situation by inviting him and his younger sister Kristen to go with me to the Festival of Trees in Taylorsville.

They seemed thrilled, despite the fact that I refused to include the dog Mae in the outing. Actually, I wasn’t so sure about going to see a bunch of over-done Christmas trees. Give me a little Fraser fir with a few garlands of popcorn and cranberries and I’m a happy camper. But I’m not a big fan of winter’s cold weather and long nights, and being with the kids seemed like a way to perk me up. Plus it was a fundraiser for the free health clinic, and I wanted to support it. 

On the drive over to the festival, Johnny Mac told me that our neighbor, Joy, who is a mysterious, yet interesting newcomer to Nubbins, had told him the origin of the Christmas tree.

“All kinds of people all over the world have used plants that stay green all year long for their special days,” Johnny Mac said knowingly, “but Germans were the first people to bring Christmas trees inside and put candles on them. Miz Joy said the candles reminded people they could find light in the darkness.”

“Well, there should be plenty of light where we’re going,” I said, trying not to sound sarcastic.

The festival was indeed ablaze with twinkling lights. Even grumpy old me had to admit the sponsors had turned the Ramada Inn ballroom into a magical place. If you’ve ever been to the Taylorsville Ramada Inn ballroom, you know that’s a miracle. Different groups had decorated the trees, and visitors could purchase ornaments as part of the fundraiser. There was one covered in tiny musical instruments, several representing other countries, a sports memorabilia tree, and one covered in little animals. I was mesmerized by one covered in clear glass ornaments that twinkled next to the lights on the tree.

“Those look almost like stars,” Johnny Mac said, sounding nearly amazed, something that doesn’t happen too often with middle school boys. I bought three.

Johnny Mac was drawn to the animal tree and purchased a little felt dog that looked a lot like Mae. Kristen, on the other hand, was sucked like a magnet to the gaudy pink, cotton-candy looking tree covered in glittery fairies. I avoided saying anything snide, which I think was very big of me.

Just as Kristen had picked out her pink fairy ornament for purchase, I saw one of my Nubbins walking buddies, Pepper, wandering among the trees by herself. Pepper hadn’t attended many of our walks recently. The tall, gangly, red-head worked long hours as a social worker in Taylorsville and I knew she had a lot on her plate. But I had also seen what I thought was her embracing a strange man in a car in her driveway about a month ago and the incident had made me uneasy. I hadn’t had a chance to discuss it with her and didn’t even know if I should.

“Pepper!” I called to her and she looked up, somewhat dazed. But she came over and gave me a hug.

“Hello, Ida Mae,” she said. “What are you doing here?”

“Johnny Mac and Kristen and I came over to see the trees,” I responded. “What about you?”

“Oh, I just got off work and I thought I’d stop by before I went home,” she sighed.

“Are you all right, Pepper?” I asked.

“Oh, sure,” she said, though not convincingly. She looked like she might add something, but only said, “We should get together some time.”

“Of course, I’d love that,” I said, but she waved goodbye and was off before I could say any more. The three of us watched her go.

“That lady needs some light,” Kristen said, then turned back to the pink tree.

I stared a minute at Kristen, then said “Yes, she does,” and hurried after Pepper. I caught up with her just as she was leaving.

“Pepper,” I said, grabbing her elbow. She turned around, looking surprised. “I’m not sure what’s going on with you right now, but you look like you could use this,” I said, stuffing one of the glass star ornaments into her hand. “Put it someplace where a light will shine through it.”

She held up the little ornament and her eyes brightened. “Thank you, Ida Mae. It’s beautiful.” Then she added, “I really do want to get together.”

“Let’s do that,” I said and we hugged before parting again.

On the drive home later that night, everyone was quiet. The leaves were mostly off the trees, which always made me feel a little sad, but I could see more of the night sky than usual. As we rounded the corner that would take us into Nubbins, I saw the silver crescent moon hanging on the horizon, and it made me smile. 

It’s true, I thought. Sometimes all it takes is one light to make everything brighter.