The following is a slightly fictionalized account of a conversation I had this week.
Mom: “Is that your Christmas tree?”
Mom: “That one there? The one on your front porch?”
Mom: “Are there ornaments on it?”
Me: “Don’t be ridiculous. It’s outside. Of course there aren’t ornaments on it.”
Mom: “I mean, is it supposed to be on your front porch? Or is it out there temporarily? Or…”
Me: “Yes. It’s supposed to be there. That’s where it’s going this year.”
Mom: “I see.”
Mom: “And why is your Christmas tree on your front porch?”
Me: “Well, our living room is really small now, and I didn’t feel like rearranging all of our furniture to find a place for it, and the cats you know, and it actually looked quite pretty when the lights on the roofline were working, but the red ones keep popping the circuit breaker, so now we just have the tree. But whatever. It’s fine.”
Mom: “Oh, right. Okay. That makes sense, I guess.”
Mom: “It’s kind of crooked.”
Me: “It sure is.”
And that, my friends, is how my Christmas season is going.
But that’s actually not the Christmas tree I wanted to tell you about.
This Christmas tree is inside where it belongs. It’s sort of small, but it’s covered—and I mean covered—with sparkly things and colored lights. There’s not a single branch that’s not adorned in some way.
The owner of this tree, S__, is also inside where he belongs. But up until eight weeks ago or so, he wasn’t. He was 14 years old when he became homeless, and he turned 21 shortly before we were able to get him sheltered.
Stop and think about that for just a second, okay? Seven years without a home. Those particular seven years. His past is unfathomable for most of us. Truly unimaginable.
And this completely over-the-top Christmas tree? It’s his first one. His first-ever Christmas tree.
When we finished decorating his tree, S__ arranged a few empty boxes around the base of it. Then he sat down, leaned against his living room wall, and smiled up at that tree for a long while, quietly humming “This Christmas.”
To be honest, I wasn’t really in the mood for a tree-trimming party that night. The Big Sad and I have been locking horns again, and my social anxiety is trying to undo me, and I’ve been fretting about work-related stuff, and… and… and there’s nothing quite like watching a formerly homeless young man enjoying his first-ever Christmas tree to knock the neuroticism right out of girl.
Oh, Christmas tree, indeed.