We did it. Ryan, Abigail, Hank, and I survived our first Thanksgiving alone. Both being from families with strong traditions and homes filled with people I knew it would seem a little empty. I tried to keep things familiar. I cooked stuffing for 12, stirred my pumpkin chiffon pie filling for eternity, and signed up for the Turkey Trot. And when Thanksgiving arrived, I was glad that I had taken the time to do every single one of those things. It was different but Thanksgiving all the same. We ate leftovers for days, played some cards with new friends, and had plenty of pie to ourselves. It was officially time to get ready for Christmas, but there was a problem. Our garage was stuffed with moving boxes and the decorations were at the back of that mess. We had purposefully put them back there knowing they weren’t essential. It was going to be impossible to dig them out without some serious shuffling, and you don’t shuffle your garage in Newport in November. The ground is permanently soggy. So I had made up my mind that we weren’t going to worry about it. It would still be Christmas without a tree.
Abigail went down for her nap and I quickly logged on Facebook. I read post after post about Christmas trees and holiday shopping and I couldn’t remove the bittersweet feeling in my heart. Having more decorations than I needed I didn’t really want to buy new ones and with the shopping in town kind of limited I had done most of mine online. I was beginning to second guess my resolve for a low key Christmas and I wondered if I could find our little artificial tree. We usually bought a real christmas tree, but a Douglas Fir wouldn’t fit in our living room this year. However, this little artificial tree would be perfect. It was tall and skinny. Just right for the space we did have. I pulled open the garage door and climbed my way over 3 rows of boxes onto the antique sewing table (sorry Mom). There it was. The long box I had been looking for. I just needed to get onto the side of that mattress and I would be there. With one foot on the sewing table and a knee on the mattress I could reach it. I inched the box closer and pulled it down onto the table. I climbed back over the piles, dragging the tree box behind me. I didn’t remember it being so sturdy and I heaved it above my head to carry it inside. I did a quick jig with Hank to celebrate my success. The scissors cut easily into the packing tape. I could scarcely believe my luck at finding this box. I opened it and found everything I needed to spruce up a spruce, but no actual spruce. Hedge clippers, metal pruning shears, and an orange extension cord. Disappointed I ran the box of lawn items back to the garage and gave up.
Besides, there were other things that could make it feel like Christmas. I put on some Christmas music and gathered the gifts I needed to mail. If I didn’t have to decorate I was going to make it my personal mission to have my gifts sent obnoxiously early. We headed to Walmart for shipping supplies.
As I pushed Abigail towards the office supplies there it was — the smallest display containing some of the crummiest Christmas trees I’d ever seen. Maybe it was that display or perhaps it was the boom box belching out a Christmas rap on crackly speakers that got me, but all of a sudden I felt every single mile that separated me from my family. This was Abigail’s first Christmas and here we were clear across the United States. It was all the motivation I needed to load my cart up with a $20 tree, $7 worth of lights, and $10 worth of ornaments. Abigail reached for a package of lights, and I happily handed them to her. I knew she was going to love Christmas as much as I did. She quickly flung the lights out of the cart and arched her back. Her face scrunched up and I started racing to the checkout. She was gonna blow. After a momentary set back by a lady pushing a poodle in her cart spewing a tirade about how scary dolls were these days, I rushed to the van and loaded up the loot.
Back home I set about putting the tree together. The branches snapped in place easy enough and I tried my best to cover the gaping holes that are inevitable when you bargain shop for a tree. I had strung the 300 lights and was ready to decorate when I realized that in my haste to leave Walmart (and the lady with the poodle) I had forgotten the ornament hooks. Oh well. I would run out for those when Ryan got home. I plugged the tree in and was surprised that it didn’t look half bad. The bottom branches were a bit dark, but that little tree had succeeded in brightening my spirits. I was happy that Abigail would have her first Christmas tree afterall. Ryan got home and he, too, was impressed with how festive our little tree was. I grabbed my keys and raincoat and ran out to the van. In no time I’d be back with the ornament hooks and the tree would be finished. That’s when I backed into the Jeep. Happy Holidays!