Last week was my birthday and I didn’t feel very well waking up on that morning. I went downstairs for breakfast hoping my wife would be pleasant and say, “Happy Birthday!”, and possibly have a small present for me. As it turned out, she barely said good morning, let alone “Happy Birthday.” I thought… Well, that’s marriage for you, but the kids… They will remember. My kids came bounding down stairs to breakfast and didn’t say a word. So when I left for the office, I felt pretty low and somewhat despondent.
As I walked into my office, my secretary Jane said,
“Good Morning Boss, and by the way Happy Birthday!”
It felt a little better that at least someone had remembered. I worked until one o’clock, when Jane knocked on my door and said, “You know, It’s such a beautiful day outside, and it is your Birthday, what do you say we go out to lunch, just you and me.”
I said, “Thanks, Jane, that’s the greatest thing I’ve heard all day. Let’s go!”
We went to lunch. But we didn’t go where we normally would go. She choose instead a quiet bistro with a private table.
We had two Martinis each and I enjoyed the meal tremendously. On the way back to the office, Jane said, “You know, It’s such a beautiful day… We don’t need to go straight back to the office, do we?” I responded, “I guess not. What do you have in mind?” She said, “Let’s drop by my apartment, it’s just around the corner.”
After arriving at her apartment, Jane turned to me and said,
“Boss, if you don’t mind, I’m going to step into the bedroom for just a moment. I’ll be right back.”
“Okay,” I nervously replied. She went into the bedroom and, after a couple of minutes, she came out carrying a huge birthday cake.
Followed by my wife, my kids, and dozens of my friends and co-workers, all singing “Happy birthday”.
And I just sat there…
On the couch…
It was just another frigid day here in New York. I was on my morning coffee run shuffling through the odds and ends of the day ahead as I sat at a red light. Suddenly my windows started reverberating as a car in the neighboring lane approached the light with it’s bass blasting. Apparently the stock system in the 1994 Pontiac Sunfire was inadequate for this journeyman, and he felt that in order to properly enjoy his new Chingy album he’d have to upgrade his sound system. You could see the rusted bumper vibrating with the beat. I never understood why people got spoilers, hubcaps and sound systems for cars that could barely pass inspection and I don’t think I ever will. Because before I was able to ask, I noticed that the pontiac emblem on the cars hood had been removed, and replaced with the autobot logo. Now it all made sense. This wasn’t a piece of shit 1994, barely street legal, vehicle. It was an extraterrestrial robot sent from another planet to look over mankind.
The light turned green, I cut the transformer off and continued my drive down the street. I could hear the faint sound of his horn over the bass. Turns out he wasn’t a robot from space after all…just another douchebag from earth.
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house…not a creature was stirring, except my fathers Craftsman 42cc gas powered chainsaw.
It was December 24th, 2000 when the unsettling sound of an eighteen inch stainless steel chain could be heard chewing through wood, completely drowning out Karen Carpenters warming solo on “Merry Christmas Darling.” As disruptive the sound may have been, it vastly paled in comparison to the sight of the Daywalker living room that fateful Christmas Eve.
***Black Friday, November 24th, 2000***
The tryptophan had barely released its hypnotic clutches on me when I awoke to a daunting sensation in the pit of my stomach. The faint smell of a burning fire immediately alerted me to the culprit of my foreboding. Three rooms over, my mother was sitting in front of the fireplace packing up the remaining Thanksgiving decorations, humming Nat King Cole, and preparing to camouflage the house in a garish mixture of green and red that would trigger even Stevie Wonders gag reflex. The time had come and there wasn’t a thing I could do to delay it any further. It was officially Christmas Season.
Call me Grinch, call me Scrooge, but my disdain for the month of December is deep rooted and for another post. I hate the music, I hate the decorations, but mostly…I hate the fakeness. (Spoiler alert) Santa is fake, peoples cheer is fake, even our family Christmas tree was fake. I never understood how a family so into this holiday never got a real tree to adorn the living room. My mother always blamed it on aesthetics, claiming the look of the fake tree was more genuine and nicer. Bullshit. I knew the real reason, which was the inherent cleanup required. See, every Christmas Eve my family would host the party that would usher everyone into the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ. And every year as my sister moved the Santa hat one day closer to the “25,” on the hanging felt December calendar, my mothers cheery demeanor would grow increasingly more agitated as the days passed. She worried that the house would never be ready for our company, and it would always be ready mind you, this was just her process. A process I couldn’t stand, which probably added to my issue with the holiday to begin with.
This year however, my parents had a plan to get me back into the spirit of the season, we were finally going to get a real tree. My visions of walking through the woods in four feet of snow, brandishing an axe and a smile until my family decided on the perfect tree were fleeting as we pulled into a gravel parking lot filled with plywood signs all pointing to a distant dirt field housing the trees we’d select from. As I boarded the bed of the Chevy pickup that would drive us to the location I stared at the rusted hack saw in my fathers hand. My sister and mom all looked ahead with gitty expectation, but my father…he was staring at me. Wearing a look that said, “come on man, this means the world to your mother.” He handed me the saw, and I put on a fake smile. Hell everyone else was doing it. We walked through the slushy aisles staring at the trees that remained until we arrived at the one my sister deemed worthy. It looked like all the rest, the only difference was it sat in a larger puddle of mud than its brothers and sisters. “This is it,” my mother said. I was then prompted to crawl underneath and saw it down. Another harsh reminder on why I loved this time of year so much. I sawed the trunk of that tree like it was the throat of Chris Kringle, until finally it was free from the roots of its halfway house. I then proceeded to drag the tree by the newly cut trunk to the location of the idling pick up truck. My dad threw it onto the bed and we headed back to the parking lot. The attendant stunk like sweat and whiskey, and he smiled at me as he wrapped our new tree in plastic and wiring. He then helped my dad fasten it to our family SUV and we were off. Celine Dion sung two beats ahead of my mother, as usual, the entire drive back to the house. We carried it inside, lodged it into the tree stand and stared at it in a collective beat. four hours later, it was decorated and my mother returned to her place in front of the fireplace. In another hour “A Christmas Story” would be inserted into the DVD player and the tradition would continue. God I hate traditions. At the time I thought I loved the real tree for its break from the traditions, but in a mere three weeks I’d learn the real reason for my admiration of this eight foot pine wonder.
The Santa hat continued to pass, day by day, and my mothers attitude declined…as was tradition. Something else was happening though, our tree was dying. As my mothers smile drooped more and more, so did the branches our antique ornaments hung from. It was sad to see. I mean this tree would have grown to something beautiful, but instead was destined to dress a living room for twenty five days before being thrown to the curb with a sleuth of empty boxes and wrapping paper balls. My father, a self proclaimed Macguyver of home care, was vexed by his trees decline and determined to fix it. He added nutrients to the water, removed the curtains to improve sunlight but the tree kept dying.
The morning of Christmas Eve, my father asked me to run a few errands with him. We had to pick up the ingredients for his famous egg nog, grab some loose ends from the grocers, and finally stop at my friends house for some folding chairs. When we arrived at his house, we entered the living room only to be greeted by a sprawling Christmas tree. It smelled like Christmas ought to smell, and it hit my father right in the groin. He informed my buddy’s dad of our plight, who in turn asked my father if he’d removed the sealant from the trees trunk? Apparently the elf covered in sweat and whiskey pours a hot wax sealant on the trees base to keep the moisture inside for the drive home. When you get it home, you’re supposed to cut the sealant off before putting it in the tree stand so it can correctly draw water. Our failure to do this was the reason we were staring at a wilting tree, and vacuuming pine needles every morning. We raced home with only an hour to go before our first guest, my elderly grandmother, would arrive at the house. My old man was determined. The next thing I know, I’m staring at the horrified face of my mother, as the love of her life ascended the steps wielding his craftsman chainsaw.
Mom: What the hell are you doing!
Dad: I’m saving this tree.
Mom: Daywalker, has he been drinking.
Daywalker: No mom.
Dad: Son. I need you to reach in and grab the tree by it’s trunk. I’m going to lay underneath and when I say lift, lift the tree as high as you can and I’ll saw off the coating.
Mom: Company will be here in thirty minutes!
Dad: I don’t care about the company! You should see the tree in the Smith’s living room! I can’t have this monstrosity being the first thing people see when they come in my house!
As my grandmother ascended the staircase, all she heard was that unsettling sound. When she entered the first thing she saw was my mothers gaunt, expressionless face. She followed her gaze to the living room, where her first born son lay on his back showering the room with saw dust as he ripped through the first real tree we’d ever had. She looked at me, holding the tree in the air by its trunk…ornaments cascading downward shattering at my fathers body. I locked eyes with her and smiled ear to ear.
Daywalker: Merry Christmas Grandma!
Finally, a Christmas with some reality.
as the only ginger I follow, your lack of activity on my dash, has left the red headed population there sorely unrepresented...:( post soon?
So sorry for my prolonged absence. I’m back in the mix to correctly represent the race in which I ambassador.