Layla: Aun Terin ("Aunt Erin"), come look at my Chwistmas tree!
Erin: Ooh, how pretty! Did you put it up all by yourself?
Layla: NO, me and mama and daddy. See this snowman's funny legs jiggle? But you can't touch. Right, Daddy? We can't touch the Chwistmas ownaments off the twee?
Daddy: Right, baby. Thank you for following directions. You can touch them, but don't take them off.
Layla: Ow ownaments have a stowy. Mama got this one at wook. We got this howse at the dewby in Kenkucky.
Erin: Do all of the ornaments have a story? What about this one? (Pointing to a large jingle bell. Located far to the inside of the tree. One would have to reach over other more fragile ornaments to get to it. Stupid Aunt Erin.)
Layla: No, but it makes a stowy! Wisten? (jingle, jingle.)
Vanessa: Layla, are you showing off our tree? (Reaches to straighten up jingle bell. Sends Layla's first christmas ornament to the floor, shattering in about a million pieces of glass.)
Vanessa: Oh, no! Not that one!
Layla: (Immediately clenching and unclenching her legs around my waist and her fists.) No, Mama! No, Mama! Don't tell Daddy. Don't tell Daddy!
Vanessa: Layla, it's not your fault. Mama dropped it because she wasn't being careful with it. It's Mama's fault.
Layla: (Now with tears in her eyes.) NO! NO! NO! Don't tell Daddy! Don't tell Daddy!
Vanessa: But Layla? You're not in trouble!
Narrator's note: My brother does not beat his child or wife. No need to get nervous here.
Layla: (Unintelligble words mixed with sobs and flailing arms.)
Vanessa: Layla, come here. It's okay.
Layla: (Something that sounds like) "Don't...Daddy...know...bwoken!"
Daddy: I'm not mad about the ornament. Let's have a hug. We're all okay. (Family group hug.)
And the three wise adults stand around looking shocked, trying to account for meaning in Layla's meltdown. We were almost crying, still mystified at the cause of such unfettered grief. Tom retrieved the broom and dustpan, and Vanessa began sweeping up the mess. Layla's defeated retreat to the fireplace was accompanied by more shuddering sobs and finally a meek little, "but ow twee is still pwetty, isn't it Aun Tewin?"
Was that the key? She knew she wasn't responsible for the broken ornament. She knew Mama would clean it up. She knew she wasn't cut. Layla was grieving the loss of perfection in her beautiful Christmas. I like to think she was mourning the loss of one part of the story her Christmas tree tells. "Environment" as a concept fascinates me: how it's created and how people respond to it. T&V's Christmas decorations create an environment not just of physical appeal, but of story, of tradition, and even a three-year old responds to it.