So it would seem that Mr. Boy is clued in to the fact that there is this thing called Christmas coming down the pipe pretty soon. About a week ago, I started asking him if he wanted to get a Christmas tree, and his response has evolved from a suspicious nod of the head to an excitedly whispered "yeah!", delivered with that tone that's reserved for children who are on to something magical and big that promises to blow open the boundaries of their reality.
So tonight we went down to the tree lot and picked out a suitable specimen. "Pick me" said this one tree. "I'll hold your lights and your little baubles with dignity." And so we did. As I tied the tree to the top of our wagon, I felt that familiar twinge of anxiety I get every time I tie something down for transport. See, I'm only good at like 2.5 things, and knot-tying accounts for 1.2 of those, so if my knots fail, if word gets out that an Eagle Scout couldn't even secure a Christmas tree to the top of a car, well the ramifications make my stomach go gurgle. But I got the tree home, in spite of the fact that we had to go to four different stores before we found one that had any tree stands in stock.
With the tree safely secured, it was dinner time at Ashley's folks' place. We've spent a fair amount of time over there lately since The Ash's uncle has moved in with them to spend his last days. I don't know her Uncle Richie all that well since he's been a recluse for most of the years of our relationship, but from what little time I've spent around him, I know that I like him and wish I knew him better. Over these last few days, even with the pain of terminal cancer, he's shown the intellect and spark of a man who is still, in some ways, very much alive.
The after-dinner portion of this evening was somewhat surreal. I played sudoku, Henry played with his grandma and great aunt, and Richie placed his signature in all the necessary places in the document containing his last will and testament. The Ash, her sister, and her dad also affixed their signatures as witnesses. I suppose it should have been a morbid moment, and perhaps from a different perspective it could be viewed as such, but it didn't feel quite so to me. More like family doing what family has to do when presented with painful reality. It was very quiet except for Henry, who wasn't falling for that "let's play 'The Quiet Game'" nonsense.
I was thinking about Richie as I drove home from the semester's very last class period today. It hasn't escaped anyone's notice that this family is about to experience both a death and a birth any day now. And even though this is a Texas December and I was wearing shorts today, it's still the end of the year, and there's still that sense of the world settling down and waiting to be reborn into a new year. And perhaps it was because I was coming home from theology class and my mind was especially open to the beauty of the stories and metaphors that we all live and walk through every day, and perhaps, yes, maybe there was a song playing on the radio that I like in spite of myself, but I got hit with one of those blessed moments of beautiful Melancholy where everything in the world feels intensely connected. Yeah, there may have been a few tears.
Our tree is now standing in the corner of the living room of our little house, waiting for tomorrow when it will be adorned with lights, decor, perhaps the odd action figure. It will be the first Christmas that my eldest son starts to "get it", and my youngest's very first Christmas at all. Maybe we can make ourselves a few memories for keeps.