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AN ORPHAN CHRISTMAS



All the orphan kids had gone to bed and things were just starting to get quiet. About 10 o'clock, several of the boys came to my room. They asked if I wanted to sneak down stairs to see the great big Christmas tree, which had been donated to the orphanage. Of course, I was more than willing to go with them. I mean, get real! After all, this was the very first Christmas tree we ever had at the orphanage.

The five of us traveled from room to room, until all the boys that could be trusted were gathered together. We quietly made our way down the long, dark hallway to the stairway and then down the creaky stairs we crept. At last, we reached the living room doorway.

All of a sudden, there was a loud noise at the far end of the downstairs hallway. All 11 or 12 of us panicked. We made a mad dash for the back staircase and headed for our separate bedrooms upstairs. It sounded like a herd of horses running across the plains, but it was a herd of little boys laughing and yelling, pushing and shoving, slipping and falling all over each another. However, the house parents did not think it was funny at all. They went from room to room just a-screaming and a-yelling at all the boys.

Of course, we acted as if we were all sleeping and did not know what was happening. Several minutes later, I heard one of the boys being slapped in the face, so I decided to go to sleep. I never did learn whom it was they caught, but I did learn what happened. When we all decided to sneak downstairs, one of the boys stopped to use the bathroom. When he came back out, we were all gone. This little idiot decided to go down the staircase near the house parent’s bedroom. What a dink! He was the strange noise we heard at the far end of the hallway.

About one o'clock in the morning, I was again awakened, this time by Robert Gillman, a red headed boy with quite a temper. Robert and I traveled from room to room waking up about five other boys. We headed back down the stairs to the living room door. When we entered the living room, we slowly closed the door and turned on the light. There stood this magnificent Christmas tree right in the middle of the living room floor. It was a beauty. Boy, did that thing smell good. We had never smelled anything like it before.

We all gathered around the tree and kept smelling and smelling. I touched the limbs and noticed that they would stick you. However, that was all right; it still smelled really good. We were all very excited about that first tree and it was all ours - well, not really our first Christmas tree. We had a tree every year, but it was over at the office where Mrs. Winters slept. It was down a long hallway and we were not allowed to go near it. The tree was placed in the piano room at the end of the 50-foot hallway. It was always white, with blue lights and blue balls. That is all I ever knew about it. I do not think any of us children ever saw it up close.

To the left of the living room door was the old Philco Radio. It was a big old thing, almost as tall as I was. One of the boys bumped into the radio and we heard the knob click. I reached over and turned the knob as far to the right as it would go. I thought that I had turned the radio off. However, what I did not realize was that I had turned the radio up to full volume. Of course, there was no sound because the radio tubes had to warm up first. We did not know that, so we continued with the business at hand.

We decided to venture out to the front porch in hopes of seeing the girls across the street at their dormitory. As we opened the glass outside door going to the front porch, that damn Philco came on, FULL BLAST and I mean LOUD. It was so loud that it scared the holy hell out of us kids. There were orphan kids running north, south, east and west, not to mention up and down. It was one hell of a mess. I tried to close the glass door, but it would not close - there was a foot stuck in the doorway. Therefore, I just let it go and I turned around to run. When I did, the lights went off and there was nothing, but total darkness.

The next thing I remember was that there was a big crash. Then there were these little things sticking me. When the light came on, these little green pine needle things were stuck all over me and the house parent was standing in the doorway. He screamed at me, walked over to the Philco and jerked the plug out of the wall. I slowly climbed out of the Christmas tree, which was now lying on its side. When I tried to stand it back up, it kept falling over, so I just stood there holding it in my hand. The man yelled at me to "throw the damn thing down and get a broom.”

The big crash we heard was the boxes of decorations hitting the floor and breaking into a thousand million pieces. When I returned with the broom, I was told to sweep up all the broken glass and pine needles. As I swept, he asked me who (all) was in the living room with me. I told him that I did not know, because it was dark when I arrived. He grabbed the broom out of my hand and began stabbing my feet with the broom bristles. I just kept jumping up and down, so it didn’t hurt so badly. Then he threw the broom down and walked out of the room.

I continued sweeping up the broken glass and needles. Then I noticed that the beautiful Christmas tree had several broken limbs. I tried to make them straight, but one of them broke off. I smelled the limb and hid it behind the Philco. I cleaned up all the glass and needles, and put them in the dustpan, before taking them to the back room where the garbage was kept.

I walked up the stairs to my room and got into bed. The house parent came in and asked me if I had cleaned up the living room. I told him that I had. He left the room and started yelling at some of the other boys. One of the older boys, Billy Brantley, was helping him. Billy came into my room and told me I was retarded just like the rest of the boys.

About a half an hour later, Mother Winters, the head matron, showed up. She told me to go downstairs and wait in the living room. When I arrived, the man grabbed me by the pajama top and told me to look for more glass. I looked and looked, but I could not find anymore. Then he told me that if he found any glass, he would make me eat it. He looked everywhere, but there was no glass found. That is until he moved the Philco. There lay one large piece of red glass. He looked at me and started shaking his finger up and down, while pointing at the piece of glass. I just stood there. He reached down, picked up the glass and handed it to me. I took the glass and held it in my hand. I just stared back at him. I was not even afraid and I do not know why.

"PUT IT IN YOUR MOUTH AND CHEW IT!" he yelled.

Then he started hitting me with a broken Christmas tree branch. I raised the broken glass to my lips and bit off a piece. My eyes never left his. He knew that I hated him for what he was doing. Just as I started to chew, he told me to go to the bathroom, spit out the glass and wash my mouth out with the soap sock.

The next day, he bought us five big bags of marshmallows, which we roasted over our beautiful burning Christmas tree. That was the best Christmas we ever had, ‘cause we kids had never had marshmallows before.



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