My son came home for Christmas.
I drove to Nashville yesterday to pick him up from the airport. Southwest airlines decided that Jake's suitcase, and one belonging to another passenger on that flight, would be happier flying on the next plane. That plane wouldn't arrive for a few hours. Jake said forget it. He had his laptop in his carry on. He could go to Salvation Army and get some jeans.
It was a last minute decision to come home, but such a welcome one for me, and Bill, and Jake's cousin. I told Jake that we didn't have a tree, and the only decorations in the house are bazillions of wonderful holiday cards with whippets on them. And that we had accepted invitations from neighbors for Christmas dinners, but I was sure he would be warmly included by all our friends. That was fine, he said, he just wanted to come home. He's not had the best year of his life. You might say that everything that could go wrong for him has. Twice. And if you said that you would not be guilty of hyperbole.
So we talked and talked the two and a half hours home from the airport. We stopped and visited with Phyllis and Maddie and gave them their presents. Phyllis had an only son, and had out lived him. I thought she would enjoy a visit with Jake and I knew he would love to meet her.
At our house, the whippets went bonkers over Jake's magical appearance. Their favorite Jake was home! Ah-wooo, woo-woo, wildness and frivolity! Jake stepped back out to get something from the car while I settled the waggle.
When I looked up through the kitchen door onto the breezeway, Jake was standing there with an eleven foot Christmas tree. What was Jake doing with an eleven foot Christmas tree? A Christmas tree? Where did Jake get a Christmas tree?
"Jake. Where did you get that Christmas tree?"
"Someone left it in the alley for you."
My mind raced. The tree even had a string of lights in the uppermost section. The trolley station is on the other side of the alley. Oh my, did Jake help himself to one of their decorations? He wouldn't. But.
"Where in the alley? What do you mean someone left it in the alley?"
"There's an Indian belief, Mom. If you find a hammer, that means that someone left it for you and wanted you to have it. Someone wants us to have this Christmas tree."
"There are no Indians in our alley, Jake!"
"It was in the alley next to your neighbors' trash cans."
I have an over active imagination. Our neighborhood has had a bit of a hubub over a Christmas tree, which looked a lot like this one. One group bought an artificial tree for an official lighting by the Mayor, asking for donations to cover the cost, and only recouped about a third. The tree had lights and some sparse decorations. Some anonymous elves bought beautiful red ornaments and ribbons and strands of beads and decorated the tree under cover of darkness. The neighborhood celebrated this delightful act of generosity. Only someone somehow misunderstood and there was talk of filing charges against the people who "desecrated" the tree. And that was soundly booed as flabberghastorhetoric histrionics, and the neighborhood was very quiet for several weeks, except for people remarking on the lovely decorating job of the public tree.
I imagined that someone had vandalized the scandalized tree and tossed it in our alley and it was now headed for our living room. That there would be a big empty place where the public tree once stood and a familiar looking tree in Casa Renzulli's living room window. And we would be found out and never live down the shame. But no. This was a real tree, and the scandalous one was fake. I called my next door neighbor.
"Hi Michael. Jake is home for a visit. Yes, I'll tell him you said hi. He just showed up with a tree he found in the alley. Oh you are? It is? Are you sure? OK. Thanks. Merry Christmas!"
So, it turned out that Jake was right about the Indians, only it wasn't Native Americans, it was our next door neighbors. They had opened presents in the morning and then Ashly and the kids had already left to visit family in Texas. Michael is a CCU nurse and has to work Christmas day and the next, and then he will join them. He had just taken the tree down and was delighted for us to have it. Now we have a Christmas tree.
The Salvation Army was closed today. So were the consignment shops. Jake did not want to buy new clothes, as he has plenty of clothes. Another neighbor stopped by with a delectable plate of cookies. She heard the story of Jake's lost luggage, and said, "Well, you're exactly the same size as my husband, and we have a pile of clothes to go to the Salvation Army. I'll go get some." She came back with pants and shirts and even a pair of perfect cowboy boots. Jake practically lives in cowboy boots.
I think those Native Americans were pretty smart. Merry Christmas everyone!
Hug your hounds, and yourselves, and each other too.