Miracle at Home Depot
Try all you like. You'll be hard-pressed to find the tiniest metaphor in this Christmas story.
This is Mo and my fifth Christmas together. It seems like an eternity since our first, when, in lieu of a tree, I blew up 100 red and black balloons and proclaimed the start of a new Christmas tradition. That went over as you'd expect.
Since then, a few traditions have taken root. Some people look forward to trudging through the snow to find the finest fir. We look forward to driving to Home Depot, saying "that'll do," and tossing one atop the car. Then, we burn our thumbs with glue guns making ornaments, decorate the house and play Run-DMC's "Christmas in Hollis" at least 30 times. Usually, Maureen drinks a bottle of champagne, eats a box of Cheez Itz and awakes Christmas morning hung over.
We didn't say it was pretty. We said they were traditions.
This Christmas season, we just couldn't get into the spirit. Time is our most precious commodity now. It's hard not to feel any activity -- especially standing in line at Target -- steals time better spent with Will. Neither of us bought many presents. To the chagrin of our neighbors who think no lawn is complete without a life-size sleigh and robot reindeer, our front porch remained dark. Maureen didn't feel like buying a tree if our son couldn't enjoy it. I nodded in sympathy, snickering all the while and hopeful we were starting a new treeless tradition.
Christmas Eve, as fate would have it, found us at Home Depot. We were buying Maureen's big present, a mailbox, when we wandered over to the trees. Maybe we'll just look, we said. Usually, there are hundreds. Yesterday, there were four. We're pretty sure they were all dead or well on their way. Touching any of them hurt our hands. All would make Charlie Brown proud.
The tree cost us a penny. The twine cost us $2. We can't quite make it stand up straight. We didn't want to risk putting up the good ornaments, so our third-stringers are on there. You need gloves to touch it because the needles are so coarse. About 50 needles fall if you breathe near the tree.
It probably won't last long, but this year, making do with the tree no one wanted seems appropriate.
Maureen awoke this Christmas morning uncharacteristically sober. "Christmas in Hollis" was blasting from the stereo as we opened our presents. Now, we're off to the ICU to spend the day with our beautiful boy. We'll share with the nurses some cookies our friends have been so generous to share with us. We'll read Will stories, tell him we love him and dress him in outfits that we'll use to blackmail him in 10 years.
Much has changed. Things aren't perfect, but this Christmas, we have so much to be thankful for.