So it is time to set up the tree. I drug everyone out into the frozen tundra last night to honor our tradition of paying too much for a Christmas tree and then getting into a fight about setting it up. Sage and Eden and Lost Boy, (yes, that’s his name. Sage introduces him as ‘this homeless kid we found.’) and Shaina, Sage’s girlfriend who can’t handle the cold but refuses to miss anything having to do with family or Christmas, because she is a.from a broken home, and b. a Jew. She is riding shotgun and telling the boys to quit complaining. I am glad she is here, because they listen to her. They either mock or ignore me, depending on their mood. Meeko is at home, with a cold, passed out on the couch with Kleenex shoved up his nose, because, yeah. It’s Meeko.
We get the tree home and go to bed, because that is enough holiday joy for one night. I think about the time our Christmas tree fell off the car on the way home, in the middle of Broadway and Lawrence. Don started screaming like a girl, and Sage, who was two, began to wail. “My TREEEE!!’
I got out and started directing traffic around it, in the snow, laughing my head off, because I love that kind of thing, honestly. Don did not consider this a good memory. Only it is.
The day arrives and Sage calls, around noon. “Mom, Shaina had a seizure, it’s bad.” Apparently they had to call an ambulance and everything. Shaina has epilepsy, and it is usually under pretty decent control, but today it was scary. I am instantly terrified it was the trip out in the cold. Sage says it wasn’t that, but I feel bad anyway.
I pick them up at the hospital, and Sage pours Shaina into the car, she is all bandy legged and groggy, all slurred and postictal. I look at her and think how much she means to us. I am glad she is ok.
I offer to take them home, but Shaina is having none of it. “Nope!” She points a shaky finger in my face, reminding me of my grandmother after too much Southern Comfort. “We’re decorating the tree, dammit.” Then she falls asleep. Okay, then.
We get her back to my house and set her up on my bed, which faces the living area. (I live in a tiny space, y’all, did I mention that?) so she can see the holiday happenings. Mellie comes down in her pj’s, because it is after seven, and she gets up early, and is perpetually tired. She and Lost Boy have been dating for awhile. Meeko comes in, because he smelled pizza. This is my weird little family, my social circle, my babies. I love having them all in the same room. Eden is jumping up and down with excitement, like a little kid. Hopefully he never gets too cool for this stuff.
Sage and Lost Boy move the big chair out, so the tree can go in the window. There is a lot of yelling around and telling each other they’re stupid and Meeko giving moving advice with pizza in his mouth. They put the chair in Eden’s room, cause where else is it gonna go? Eden and his friends will pile on it to play video games until the tree is down, so it’s all good.
Sage climbs up on the ladder to get the Christmas stuff out of storage, balancing precariously on the top rung, which makes me nervous. Then Lost Boy has the bright idea to goose him, and Sage almost breaks his neck. Meeko and Eden think this is hilarious, but Sage and I are both a little miffed. He’s a bleeder, for God’s sake.
As we are untangling the lights and I am sorting out and setting aside the ornaments that Jude loves so he can put them on when he gets here, Sage asks me what I want for Christmas. The same thing I wanted for mother’s day, and my birthday, I tell him. An Amope, to sand the weird skin off my feet.
“Ok, gross, no one is getting you that, ok?” Sage says. I tell him I changed my mind, I don’t want to decorate anything anymore.
I burst into tears and throw the lights down. “What the hell? I have something for you for Christmas already!” “why did you ASK me then??” “I wanted to know if you wanted it or not!!” We look over and Eden is starting to tear up and Lost Boy has hidden in the bathroom.
Shaina has pulled herself up and propped herself up against the wall. “Thage, you’re being…” long pause. We wait. “Ridiculous.”
“Sorry, I was just joking. About the Amope.” he says. “I just want nice feet,” I tell him. I sit back down, embarrassed, fully aware of how ludicrous this is and how it is so not about the stupid Amope.
We keep decorating, after coaxing Lost Boy out of the bathroom, with the boys taking breaks to put one another in obligatory headlocks and fart on one another. I take a few pictures, which they hate, but it makes me happy. Shaina wakes up once or twice to tell them to cut it the hell out, and then dozes off again.
We had planned to watch A Christmas Story afterwards, but Mellie heads off to bed, and Meeko has disappeared because he heard a rumor that someone, somewhere in our ten story commune is watching Fight Club and he must not miss that, ever. Why are men so obsessed with that movie? Good lord.
Lost Boy gets up and leaves suddenly. I go out in the hallway, and he is standing there, looking, well, despondent, really, and I ask him what is wrong.
“I told you, I don’t do holidays,” he says. “I can’t handle the memories.” “Christmas is yours, Dustin,” I tell him, using his real name, for once. “It belongs to you. You make your own damn memories, starting today. Okay?” He nods.
I remember being that age, wondering if anything would ever be truly mine.
After everyone has gone home, I pick up on last ornament, the Snoopy on a sled. It was Don’s when he was little, and has always been Jude’s favorite. Snoopy’s head is missing, and I frantically dig around in the leftover tinsel to find it. When I do, I get the super glue and fix him as best I can, but it doesn’t look quite the same. I am overcome with grief, there in the dark, and I call Sage on the phone.
“Yeah?” he says, obviously busy.
“Can you see the tree from your house?” I ask him, because he lives in a high rise across the street.
“There’s stuff in the way,” he says, absentmindedly.
“We had good Christmases, right? You remember, right?” I say. Sage sighs. “Mom, I have to go.”
I hang up the phone, and go over and look at Snoopy, hanging crookedly on the tree.
My phone dings.
There is a text from Sage.
“Christmases were AWESOME.”
The next day I go to look at the pictures I took of the boys, and I realize Meeko has gone into my phone and deleted every single one that he is in. I make a mental note to get Shaina to give him a talking to.
In the light of day, the tree looks beautiful. It is perfectly imperfect, really, the ornaments representing so many things; love, memories, tears. Snoopy smiles at me with his broken neck. It’s good, I tell myself. It’s mine.