And This Year’s Christmas Tree Will Be
Michael walked up the steps of the house he grew up in. He promised his mother he would help her get all the Christmas decorations out of the attic. From past experience he knew it would be a long and nostalgic task. Debbie, his mom, would have to tell him the story of each object they uncovered. And there were a lot!
There was the plastic sleigh and reindeer that went on the roof. His mom and Uncle Vic bought them when Michael was just five years old. He had been so excited and begged his mom to let him climb on the roof and sit in the sleigh. Of course the answer was a resounding “No!” and the threat of Santa not visiting if he even tried.
Then there were the lights. Boxes and boxes of lights, undoubtedly tangled in a heap. It would take at least a whole day to get them all separated and bulbs checked and replaced. Then they had to be hung…everywhere. The house would rival any in Pittsburgh in the light department. New strings were bought almost every year and this year was no exception. Michael had found four new boxes of icicle lights in the closet a week before Thanksgiving. He didn’t even want to know what their electric bill was over the holidays.
He took a deep breath and walked into the house. Debbie was just coming down the stairs, resplendent in a red, fuzzy Santa hat sitting slightly a kilter on her red hair.
“Mikey, you made it,” she said, surprise and glee in her voice. “Merry Christmas. I started without you. Here, take these and set them by the window.” She handed him two large boxes that felt awfully light given their size. “Don’t drop them. Those are glass tree decorations I got from my Nonna.”
Michael recognized the boxes and didn’t have to be reminded of their place in his mother’s heart. “She wouldn’t give me her gnocchi recipe, but she did leave me with these gorgeous decorations.” She gently opened the top box and lifted one of the fragile glass orbs and cradled it gently in her hands. Michael gently rubbed her back, conveying his own feelings for the decorations.
After a moment’s reflection, Debbie was back into command mode. “Now, go on upstairs and get the box with the tree in it. It’s on the left under the eaves.”
“Ma, can’t we get a real tree this year? We’ve had that green monstrosity since…since I don’t know when.”
“Michael, Thanksgiving was just two days ago. If we put up a ‘real’ tree now, it’ll be nothing but a dried up mess by Christmas no matter how much we watered it.”
The only person more stubborn than Michael was his mother, so he stomped up the stairs to the attic. He looked around under the eaves and didn’t see the box. He did find the box containing the homemade decorations from his years in school years: the tin can lids with cutout pictures from old Christmas cards pasted on them, construction paper chains and cutout stars covered in tattered aluminum foil. Michael wiped away a tear, lifted the box and headed back to the living room.
“Couldn’t find the tree box, Ma.”
“Michael, what did you do, stand in the middle of the attic and turn around once? Did you even look where I said?”
“Yes, Ma, I did. It’s not there.”
“Oh shit. I forgot. I gave it to Goodwill last summer.”
Michael’s face perked up and a smile appeared. “Does that mean we can get a real tree?”
“No. I have a better idea. Wait here.”
Debbie made a quick dash for the stairs, the look on her face one that Mikey knew too well.
“Oh geez,” he thought. “What now?”
A few minutes later he could hear the sounds of his mother’s voice floating down the stairs.
“Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree …”
Debbie appeared within seconds carrying a cardboard box. “How lovely are thy branches,” she continued with the old carol.
“I thought you said you gave the tree to Goodwill.”
“I did. This is a different one. I had this one when I was a little girl. I almost forgot all about it. I hope it’s still usable.”
Michael couldn’t wait to see what this tree looked like and held his breath with a mixture of fear and suspense.
Debbie slowly opened the box and smiled. She pulled out one fake branch, then another and another, holding them in her hand like a bouquet of flowers.
“Pink! It’s PINK! “No, Ma. No, no, no.”
“What, Michael? Look, it’s in perfect shape…or well it will be when we get it together and get all the branches straightened out. And it’ll look great with blue lights.”
Yes, Michael was gay, but he wasn’t gay enough for a PINK Christmas tree.
Not even close. Maybe Emmett would like it…no, no, no, not even Em.
“Oh Michael. I loved this tree when I was a kid. I couldn’t wait to help decorate it. Your grandfather would string the blue lights and your grandmother and I would do all the decorations…oh Michael, it’ll be beautiful.”
And Michael had no doubt that, to his mother, it would be the most beautiful tree ever.
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