Friday, December 21, 2012

A Little Tree

In 1999 my mother was in a nursing home. For her first Christmas there, I took her a little tree—about three feet tall—covered with tiny red glass balls and lights.

“Baa Humbug,” my cranky mother said to the little tree. She didn’t really hate the tree, she hated her life. I put the tree on the top of her dresser and plugged it in. White lights sparkled in her dim sterile room. “I like the lights,” Scrooge conceded.

In 2000 the little tree returned to Mom’s nursing home room for another Christmas. “Oh, that again,” Mrs. Crabapple said. Then I plugged it in and she smiled. She liked the lights.

By Christmas 2001 my mom had moved on. She had been saying she’d go to heaven, but I figured she was at the North Pole in charge of putting soot in the stockings of the naughty kids. The little tree stayed at my house.

One year I put the little tree in the bay window in our bedroom. Some years it hung out in the basement. This year I put it on the end table in the living room. John and I put the gold Christmas tree I made out of junk in the front window. One living room. Two trees—seemed a little glutenous.

Last Sunday I talked to my friend, Kim Fay, who’s been having one nasty, baa humbug year: sucky finances, a leg pain that’s been hurting for months, two horrendous trips to the hospital and—with good reason—depression. She wasn’t decorating for Christmas this year.

On Monday I put the little tree in a black trash bag. I tied a red bow to the top and attached a card signed “Merry Christmas, From Santa.” Anonymous is good. No fuss, no muss. No “Oh my gosh, now I have to reciprocate" woes. None of that. Just a little tree to cheer up a friend.

When I put it on Kim’s front porch, her car was in the driveway, but the house looked dark, no lights, no movement. Of course, it was early afternoon, so she wouldn’t necessarily have her lights on. Then I worried. What if someone stole the bag from her porch. What if she didn’t leave the house for days and didn’t find the little tree?

There is a line of deception one follows in these matters. I asked my friend Joy Powell to have her partner Keith Brown call Kim from an untraceable number. “This is Santa,” he told her, “I’m calling from the North Pole. There’s something on your front porch.” He said Kim laughed.

On Facebook she posted, “I don’t recall a kinder gesture. I have no idea who you are. Be it known to you somehow, you delivered hope to a worn out soul.” 

One night I drove by her house on the way to somewhere else. The little tree was in her front window. The lights sparkled. 

My Xmas was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. One of my very best.

Since then I’ve come clean. Kim knows where the tree came from, and some really good things have happened for her—a painting commission, a little prize from the Detroit Artists Market…the little tree was ”the start of good juju,” she says. 

Also, through Facebook, she discovered a woman who had been dreaming of having a violin for forty-two years. Kim’s giving the woman her old violin. Next year she plans to pass the little tree on to someone else who needs some cheering up. Remember the movie, "Pay It Forward"? This is how it works.

It's a Merry Christmas.

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