Our third grade class was having a special program and the teacher had chosen me to be the Christmas tree. I was the first one off the bus as it pulled to our stop. [Start here] I raced down the street toward home. Out of breath, I burst through the door to hand my mother the note.
“Well, what have you here Connie?” she asked.
“We’re having a Christmas program, and I’m going to be the tree. Will you make me a costume,” I asked gasping for air.”
“Of course, I will. What do you want it to look like?”
“I want it to be the biggest and best looking tree ever. Can it have a star on top?”
“I’m sure that’s possible. Now let me read the note so I can see when this has to be done.”
The next day when I came home from school, my mother was at the kitchen table cutting something out of the newspaper. I wondered what she was doing. After closer inspection, I could see it looked like a pine tree. I didn’t want to disturb her so I quietly stood watching. Soon she turned and said, “Take off your coat so I can see if this will fit you.”
I stood like a statue as she pinned the newspaper pattern around my body. As the time passed, I know I fidgeted from foot to foot hoping I wouldn’t move too much. I didn’t want her to stick me with a pin, but it was sure taking a long time.
A few minutes later, she declared it a perfect fit. She carefully removed the pins and laid the pattern on the table. Then she left the kitchen for a short time and when she came back, she was clutching a piece of green fabric. I watched as she carefully laid the soft material on the table, arranged the makeshift pattern on top in several directions, and fastened it with pins. With scissors in hand, she started cutting.
The next day I came home to find a long green dress with no sleeves waiting for me to try on. “Mother never makes mistakes, so why is it necessary to try it on?” I wondered.
I’m sure my disappointment showed, but it didn’t look anything like a tree. The following day when I arrived home from school there were branches made of crepe paper poking out in all directions along the bottom of the skirt. At first, I didn’t notice, but there was wire holding each branch in place. Every day I ran all the way home from the bus stop excited to see the progress on my outfit. Finally, the tree was complete and my mother had me try it on for a final fitting. I twirled around in circles knowing this was the best costume in the world. “It’s not finished,” my mother said.
“But it looks like a tree.”
“Wait until you get home tomorrow and you’ll see,” she said.
As my anticipation grew, I could hardly wait for school to be over. When I arrived home, my eyes grew big as I saw the gold tinsel and ornaments my mother had attached to the branches. It was a piece of art. I knew there had never been a costume or tree this beautiful.
On the day of the program, my mother arrived early to help me into the outfit. I didn’t see the final touch, the yellow star hat, until my mother pulled it from the bag. I bet my eyes were as big as saucers when I saw the glorious bright glittered gold star she placed on my head.
As I entered the room to perform, everyone turned to stare in amazement. I could hear the softly spoken ahs, and ohs. Instead of the usual feeling of shyness, I was floating on a cloud.
After the program, I was the center of attention. Everyone wanted to see and feel my costume up close. My mother taught me that I was important, and helped others see my value.
We saved the outfit for many years. I’m not sure where it went, but I’ll always remember the beautiful Christmas tree and the way I felt when I wore it.
The years passed and I still remember this costume made by my mother. She took as much care in making it as if she were making a piece of clothing that I would wear to school. She showed me patience as she sewed the branches to the green dress, and as she attached wires so they would poke out the way a tree does. Her stitches had to be perfect. Nothing could be wrong even if it were only a child’s outfit for a play, and I would only wear it once. Whenever my mother said she was going to do something, you knew she would. She never let anyone down. My mother was generous with her time and always willing to help her children, and others.
Change this story to third person. Take out some of the long descriptions and the first two sentences—start with the girl racing into the house. Add a little more conflict—is the girl worried it won’t look right, or it won’t be ready in time, or maybe she doesn’t see what it looks like as it’s being made but just finds little clues each day. Make it more showing, less telling. End it with the performance and everyone saying it’s the best costume ever. Do all that and you might just have a picture book.
What I liked best: The surprise star.
Magazine ready? Not quite, but it has a lot of potential.