BROTHER by Harry Kuhn

The snow crunches underfoot.
Knee deep, it takes effort to walk.
The sound carries in the forest.
I see puffs of my breath.
My nose is cold and I sniffle.

Jim and I choose a tree.
Despite my youth, my vote counts.
I feel important, a part of the work, though Jim swings the axe.
The steel head of the axe bites into the tree and the crack echoes.
Snow cascades off the branches with each blow.

The tree is down and we wait for Jim to catch his breath.
We grip the branches at the large end and drag the tree out of the woods.
It leaves a smooth path in the snow behind us with our footprints on either side.
At the car, I am too short to be much help getting the tree onto the roof, but I try.
We talk about how it looks like a good tree.

I enjoy being alone with Jim.
Home is not my happy place, but he is always kind to me.
And he reminds me of our home before I went to live with him.
I didn’t want to leave there, didn’t want to move in with Jim and his family.
Life happens that way; kids don’t always get to choose.

The trip to the forest is the real experience of the season for me.
Just me and my big brother, alone in a snowy forest, cutting down a Christmas tree.
I participate in Christmas celebrations at Jim’s.
The Christmases when I was with my dad and my brothers and sisters were around, those are memories.
What I remember most about them was the joy of being around them all.

But I am young and resilient, I will adapt.
New memories don’t replace the old ones, they are just good new ones.
What stays the same is what I take pleasure in.
I will remember this Christmas not for the decorations or the baked good or the gifts.
I will remember trudging through the snow, voting on a tree to take, and spending hours alone with my big brother.

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