When I got tall enough, my folks put me in charge of the star.

The one at the top of the tree, and it always seemed to be just a little bit crooked.

There was a small string hasp, some cardboard with cheap gold paint and a plastic red stone in the middle.

It looked halfway decent, but was all we had. In the family a long time before I came along.

So that became my job. Adjust the star. 

I spent many an hour keeping an eye on that darn thing. 

The tree presented no real problems. It was mostly humans. 

They’d put a big box under there and shake things up.

So I’d go back several times a day and adjust the thing. 

But it never stayed up right anyway.

Did it make me a responsible person? Did it pave me a good road in life? 

I guess I’m still debating that, but I haven’t done too bad.

Tonight, my wife and I put Snoopy and Frosty and all that out right there. 

There was a smell of barbecue. A southern thing in winter. 

Someone had themselves a time with ribs and beer. I envied them.

In 2008, the booze comes right in the sauce. The malls are clogged and people are afraid to get lost in the crowds. Another tradition gone. Easier to just Internet everything.

 The Jennings Optimists Club canceled their annual tree sale fundraiser because people, the ones who actually got out to shop, could get one cheaper at Wal-Mart.

But some things are the same. 

Electric wires and poles, all gone down in the ground. 

Lit up and everything, within three whole feet.

And the neighbors said they liked them, and it all looked real pretty.

And when it became time to adjust the star, I said, “Just let it stay crooked. 

“That’s the way it needs to be.”

[Readers may e-mail Robert Hankins at robert1961@live.com]