A Short Story,
The Christmas tree has meaning and history throughout the world. To me the Christmas tree is a symbol of Hope and kindness.
Long ago when I was young and foolish not to say naive, I was thought a great lesson at Christmas time. I was a college student with my family away and not able to visit them I was alone for the holidays and worst I was laid off by my temporary job just before Christmas. With my last paycheck I paid my rent and other bills and was left quite broke. Two days before Christmas I walked to the corner bar/lounge and ordered a drink. An older man sat two stools away from me and kept looking my way. Finally I asked “do I know you?” “No, but could not help noticing your sad eyes.” I looked at him but could not understand his meaning. I shrugged my shoulder and took a sip of my drink, it was not the drink that I was enjoying but rather the cacophonous sounds of the establishment during the holidays. There is a sense of loss when you have no one to share these rituals with, we are after all sociable creatures. These are the times when death visits all who feel alone and desperate for family and friends and the only solutions are acts of affirmation by staring death in the face and meeting it head on through a window or a bottle or …
No! I was not having suicidal thoughts, but the media reminded us of making sure we were there for those who were alone and give the gift of yourself.
I noticed during my reminisces the man had moved next my stool and was keenly asking my name. “I do not make it a habit of picking up men at bars…” “ he laughed a great robust laugh! “I’m sorry did not mean to give you that impression, I only wanted to cheer you up, while I may cheer myself up too.” That did get my attention. I laughed too. “Solitaire” “ Mark” handshakes were exchanged and he said : “ you first.”
I told him my story and he told me his… basically his ex-wife had planned vacation with her new family and his son was going along ( all last minute) thus leaving him without a Christmas. He has friends and other family but he missed his 5 year old boy, it was going to be the first Christmas without him. He also told me how he felt the first Christmas after the divorce and how alone he was. He told me that I had that expression when I had walked into the lounge.
He then asked me if I had a Christmas tree. “No, can’t afford it!” “Come, we are getting a tree for you!” He paid for the drinks and escorted me out of the bar. We started walking towards a tree vender on the avenue and he asked him if he delivered, once the man agreed to bring my tree he paid him and told me to choose one. I did, not too big but, narrow and full. Then he said that that was as far he was going with me ( after all all the crazy ideas I had come up with during our walk – he was a stranger, unknown and it could have been dangerous). Then he took his wallet out took a $20 out and gave it to me. “Enjoy your holidays! And remember no matter what, always have a live Christmas tree on Christmas! Promise me! “ “I promise!” “You will remember then, that no matter what, there’s Christmas in your heart!” He gave me a hug and walked away. I gave the tree man my address and we agreed on a time.
When the tree came I decorated with memories of the past , keychains, bracelets, all the little silly things we collect for dust, the best was the popcorn string for present and a poem in shape of a star for the future… and thus I had my Christmas carol.
Thus I have kept this tradition since then… until 2015 when I lost my job without notice or preparations, and for eight months I had to scrape and save to just survive financially and emotionally. When Christmas came that year I knew that Christmas trees were not on my budget, I no longer lived in a town when they delivered trees and could not take cabs, too expensive and with my injured knee carrying it was out of the question. ( too proud to admit to my family and friends I was defeated) I had been depressed and angry too long, six months was a long time and worst I thought the whole world hated me. ( this was the time when I had started my quixotic blog as a release).
Christmas eve morning I sat at my table and while I drank my coffee and looked around and I knew it was that time to keep my promise I hugged Rhea got dressed and walked to the bus stop, I was determined to get a tree, I decided to visit Stew Lenards.
When I got there there was a wonderland in their outdoors, the garden stuff had been replaced by Christmas trees, wreaths, decoration, and beautiful seasonal plants. I walked to it and the first thing I noticed was ALL TREES $7 sign! Oh my God! That was a miracle! I picked my tree, walked over to the food section and shopped for Christmas dinner, walked to the winery and bough a bottle Spumante and pink moscato and sat with my tree at the bus stop. A couple of passerby did take my photo from their car, I guess they chucked it to the Christmas spirit! I’m sure I ended up on someone Facebook or instagram page. I did not care, there was a powerful emotion building inside of me! Yes! I was celebrating a birthday, one as long as time…. The Birth of Jesus, the birth of love and kindness and compassion but most of all the giving of one self, 2015 was for me by me.
I was looked at, whispered about while traveling by bus, carrying my tree in my neighborhood and into my home. I spent Christmas Eve decorating my home and the tree, made dinner, dessert and had wine for Christmas and kept celebrating onto New Year’s, I welcomed 2016 with a smile of promises and hope.