When Mrs Stoat was a wee lass, her father had a terrible temper. If a fork scraped across a dinner plate a little too loudly, he would shout. If pajamas weren't folded up and tucked neatly under a pillow, he would stomp his feet. If his children stayed out even a little past curfew, he would wait in the darkness of the living room and rage at them - then he would wake them up early and put them to work to make them pay for their sins.
One year, when Mrs Stoat and her brother were lazy teenagers, lazing around and playing with their Gameboys, their mother asked them to take the decorations off the Christmas tree. However, Mrs Stoat and her brother were lazy teenagers, lazing around and playing with their Gameboys, so neither felt the inclination to jump at their mother's command. Just let me finish this level, they would say. And so, just before they could finish their levels, their father came in.
Mr Marmot said not a word to his children. He calmly walked over to the Christmas tree and stared at it. Mrs Stoat and her brother sensed they were in danger and quickly tried to put their Gameboys away. But it was too late. Their father grabbed the Christmas tree, ripped off some of the decorations - because his wife would have been upset if he had just left them - and dragged the tree outside to the snowbank.
It was an artificial tree, thirteen hundred tips of plastic fir, decorated with six strings of lights, forty eight feet of silver garland, twenty four silver and blue-painted glass balls, thirteen discolored and ancient white satin balls, sixty eight handmade ceramic decorations, a dozen little blue stars the cat loved to steal, a soap carving of a little non-gender-specific child, and on top was the blue and white star, the star that Mr Marmot and his wife bought on their very first Christmas together.
Mrs Stoat and her brother, who were particularly terrified of being struck about the head and neck, scurried to pick up the dropped decorations while their father stood over them and shouted at them for being ungrateful little shitheads. He promised them that never again would a Christmas tree darken their doorstep. That night, Mrs Marmot stood outside in the snow bank with the trash can and the Christmas tree, and took off the decorations that hadn't fallen when the tree was dragged outside. Mrs Stoat and her brother promised each other that Christmas didn't mean anything to them and that they would never again put any effort into the holiday.
When Mrs Stoat was well into adulthood, married to Mr Stoat, and living in a rented burrow in Stoatbridge, her mother shipped several boxes out to her. One of the boxes contained Christmas decorations salvaged from that Christmas so long ago. There were no lights and no garland, but there were eighteen silver and blue-painted glass balls, six discolored and ancient white satin balls, sixty handmade ceramic decorations, three little blue stars the cat loved to steal, a soap carving of a non-gender-specific child that was missing a leg and half an arm, and the blue and white star that her parents bought on their very first Christmas together.
Mr Stoat bought his wife six strings of LED lights, forty eight feet of new silver garland, twenty four new silver and blue-painted glass balls, assorted stars and decorations, and a real Christmas tree on which no one had bothered to count the branch tips. He stood the tree in the green and red stand he bought, and he filled it with water. He found a Christmas tree skirt decorated with dancing snowmen, and wound it around the base of the tree. He hung the new decorations and the old, and on the top, he placed the blue and white star.
Mrs Stoat was so overjoyed that she bought her husband extra beer that night and they celebrated Mrs Stoat's rediscovered love of the holiday by getting drunk and eating gingerbread cookies under their new tree.