Death Star

I don’t remember whose idea it was to make a Death Star as a tree topper that year. As a woman with little interest in “Star Wars,” I had only a vague idea of what the Death Star even was. Nonetheless, my younger sister and I sat for hours at the dining room table, determined to craft the perfect papier mache sphere that would impress all the guests at our upcoming Christmas party. At the time, it seemed like a worthy task. Looking back, it made no sense.

But then, nothing made sense that winter– including my Muslim sister sawing down a douglas fir in the middle of a field. While it seemed an undeniably badass choice to me, many others would have considered it (forbidden).

No, nothing made sense. A family of five from New York City with no income or ties to the town, occupying that pretty yellow house among the homes of professors and their wives. An 18-year-old girl who should have been starting university and helping to care for our father back in Germany. Worry and confusion were the by-words for our lives, yet here we were, doing festive things on Sunday afternoons, watching neighbors’ dogs and goats parade down the street in reindeer antlers and hooves.

That February, my sister returned home to bury our father and prepare for her upcoming wedding in May. In the months that followed, during what’s known as “mud season” in New England, the colorless landscape seemed to seep into every curve and corner of my body. The hours stretched before me like an endless, gray hallway with no doors or windows to speak of.

I recalled the terror I’d faced as a new mother given the heavy charge of protecting such a delicate life. Only now that life was my own, and I had no idea how to care for it.

The Death Star never made it to the top of our tree and now lay abandoned in the corner of our dining-room floor, shapeless and deflated.

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