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Scene: My Living Room, Saturday Afternoon

Me: (mumbles to self while setting up Christmas tree)

Alex: (perplexed) “Hey… Mama?”

Me: (pulling head from underneath spiky needles of doom, expecting the question to have something to do with pizza): “Yes, J?”

Alex: “So, I was thinking a lot about this.”

Me: (resting on my haunches and giving him my undivided attention, expecting a cunning con to splat from his adorable mouth) “Okay.”

Alex: “I don’t know if I’m right.”

Me: (now thoroughly entertained by his The Thinker pose) “Well, why don’t you ask? I’ll see if I know the answer.”

Alex: (is silent for a few moments)

Me: (silently awaiting his question and hoping it has nothing to do with building bombs or roller coasters in our bedroom)

Alex: “A fart is really like a burp coming out of your butt…. right?”

Me: (gapes for a second) “Um… I’d never really thought of it that way, but yes, J, you’re right. A fart IS a burp coming out of your butt.”

Alex: “Okay, that’s what I thought.”

Me: (stifling laughter at how seriously he’s taking this) “Really glad I could help you with this one.”

Alex: “And… can we order pizza?”

Me: “Nice try, kidlet.

 ————–

Yesterday, I wrote this for Band Back Together, the community weblog I run with a group of volunteers. It’s there that we share stories – YOUR stories – (and pair them with over 600 resources) with the rest of the world so that we can grow, learn, and thrive through our trials and tribulations. You never know who will be touched by the words you write, so I’m seriously asking you to share your stories. Can be old stories or new. Sad stories or happy.

Everyone has a story – it’s time to tell yours.

And? If you’re interested, we’re doing tons of excitable things behind the scenes – we have an auction going on AND a calendar this year. If you’d like to join our volunteer pool, we’d be honored to have you. Email volunteer@bandbacktogether.com and we’ll get this party started!

Thursday night, I’d finally had enough wallowing and whining, so I told Crys that I was about to go all Eye of the Tiger on the Christmas tree I’d neatly transported from that life to this – with, I feel compelled to add – only a few minor bruises and a cut finger, which certainly isn’t nearly as horrifying as it could have been.

I’d already lugged everything in from the car, which made a grand mess in my wee apartment, adding, I like to think, a little rustic – yet slobbery – vibe to the place. I mean, who doesn’t go apeshit with The Awesome for stuff in cartons you don’t have anywhere to store? (answer, obviously, is “anyone.”)

Mimi was waltzing her big girl ass over here for our weekly girls night the following evening and I figured we’d spend the weekend decorating my apartment festively, as, most of you well know, I wear a #1 finger for Christmas – and no, not the YOU’RE number one finger. As I didn’t really want my daughter to watch me mangle a tree from – literally – the fifties into submission because there’s no amount of therapy THAT can undo, I was all proactive and shit. I nearly patted myself on the back, if only I could’ve reached that far.

The tree was a hand-me-down from the first year we were married, given to us by my sister-in-law’s parents, who apparently never get rid of anything, a trait I find remarkable in others, especially considering I cannot, for the life of me, find your standard, garden variety, scotch tape. None of this fancy “electrical tape” for this girl – nope. I may SPEAK fancy, but I’m all about the plain Jane tape.

(this means, Pranksters, that my presents will be wrapped with duct tape this year. Thems be the very colorful breaks)

(double sorry for anyone who gets a present from me. Should be a *ahem* challenge to unwrap)

Our first year together, Dave assembled the tree as I watched, my mild-mannered husband swore like, well, me, which lead me to understand one thing (okay, two):

1) Dave should NEVER be allowed to do tedious housework

B) Putting together fake Christmas trees requires a Masters in Awesome..

Since my parents were the sort who chopped down their own Christmas trees and made syrup from um… those trees that give you the stuff to make syrup (*I’d* been under the impression came from Mrs. Butterworth and her quaint, homey – and terribly refined – apron), I knew nothing at all about fake trees beyond “they come out of a box and smell like burnt hair.”

And once that first tree was up, it was a sight to behold. I’d petitioned for a real tree, but with carpeting and dogs and cats and kids, I was summarily denied, and for good reason. There are probably STILL needles in the most odd places left from the one year we did manage a real tree.

So I figured, if I’m going fake, I’M GOING MOTHERFUCKING FAKE. And I did. And it was awesome:

this that and the other thing

Whoops. Wrong photo. That was me. A very surly bag ‘o’ jelly beans. Very little has changed since first grade. I’m taller now, I think. 

this that and the whole damn thing

WHOOPS! I’ve got to stop naming my snaps shit like, “Tate the asshole hedgehog,” because then I get all excited to see what it is and it’s NOT my fug ass tree.

this that and the whole damn thing

See? The tree? I mean, okay, if you can’t see it, it’s on the left there (or is it the OTHER left?) and you know you’re a bad blogger when your snaps aren’t actually aimed at your intended target.

Also: SQUEE! When did Ben get so fucking OLD?

So the tree. We put it up twice, each time, Dave swearing like an asshole, causing me nearly to go into labor and then we moved onto a more…adult-looking fake tree. At least, the thing was green and not white. Which did NOT make me particularly happy, by the by.

When I moved out, I thought it only natural that I’d take the old white tree, because, well, I’m tacky and Dave’s an adult.

Which brought me to Thursday when I was all ramped up and ready to be festive, motherfucker. I could TOTALLY put together a tree and shit, even if it was rusted and appeared to be flaking lead paint. I was ALL ready to kick some ass.

Until I realized that things – even aluminum – do turn to dust eventually and I was missing the top half of the tree. So okay, it was really that I was missing the top half of the tree, so stop humming “Dust in the Wind,” will you? PLEASE? That song gives me hives.

What I’m ashamed to admit about the tree is not that it was half broken or that I was going to need a new tree if, in fact, I wanted to deck the motherfucking halls, it was that it took me finishing the bottom of the tree to note that the top of the tree was missing. I won’t lie: I was ashamed for a couple of minutes before I spent some quality time intensely debating whether or not I should, in fact, leave it as is. Make it a truly Charlie Brown Christmas.

It didn’t take long for the remnants of the tree to make it into the trash.

Crouched down in the waaaaay back of the basement, I started my journey through the dusty bins that I’d once carefully stacked, labeling the contents in a way that would make my OCD father proud. I took a strange and unexpected amount pride in organizing the basement, a hundred light years ago, carefully packing and stacking, and pulling things out to donate to charity.

I always took a lot of pride in the things I did to make my home, well, better.

But I wasn’t in the basement of the house formerly known as mine to take a stroll down memory lane, nor was I there to marvel at the size of the basement and amount of storage capacity of the room (although I had a Jealous about the storage potential).

No, I was there to pick up some of the Christmas things I’d been collecting for as long as I’d been with Dave.

Always one for tradition, I’d been buying one of those Hallmark holiday ornaments for each person in my immediate family, one that showcased the past year. When Ben was a tot and in his Inter-planet Janet Phase, I’d bought a Moon Landing ornament, I’ve bought one for each of the babies first Christmases, and others that represented parts of the previous year.

As the babies were wee, I never was able to put those ornaments up without fear that they’d be gnawed on and lead to the eventual death by ornament which isn’t particularly festive, so these ornaments stayed carefully in their boxes, waiting for the day that the kids were older and were less apt to die by ornament. I pictured Dave and I, sitting around as old farts, our kids grown (perhaps with their OWN kids) looking back at the ornaments I’d bought so long before and remembering.

The Universe does laugh at my plans – instead, I sat alone in the fridgid basement, sneezing, blowing dust off the boxes I’d carefully packed, remembering. A blue ribbon and a silver spoon dated 2007, for Alex’s first Christmas. The Dexter’s Laboratory ornament I’d gotten to represent my dreams of going back to school to study virology. The penguin ornaments I’d selected for Dave. The tiny ballerina I’d bought for my (then) tiny daughter.

Carefully, I went through the boxes, selecting the ornaments that meant something. To me, they were memories of happier times. Times when dreams were real and happiness brimmed through the walls of the house. Times less complicated. To Dave, it was just stuff.

Nearly done, blindly I reached into the very last bin, making certain I’d gotten all I’d come for. As I dug around the bin, an unexpected and sharp pain caused an unladylike yelp. Quickly, I pulled my finger from the box to see what had attacked me. Already, a glistening bead of blood had formed and without thinking, I stuck my finger in my mouth.

Pulling my finger out, I realized I hadn’t anything to staunch the blood, and onto the cold basement floor it pattered as I stood there, wondering how it had all gone so horribly wrong.

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