I know what it is to be in a relationship with someone who is a true scrooge. I know what it is like decorate a Christmas tree with my child, but I also know what it is like to be angry, sad, and eventually numb to a man who doesn’t want to join us. I told myself it was his culture, until his sister arrived on the same day as the separation papers, in the middle of a snowstorm, two weeks before Christmas, and told me otherwise.
We bushwhack our way up to our Zombie Apocalypse meeting place I don’t want to park in the mud so we find another spot which is why we are struggling through the tangle of grapevines. We cross the lower trail where we have marked a tree with a rock and a Z etched in its surface and clamber up the steep slope to the upper trail. It is a hard push and I get the harsh cold feeling in my lower bronchi that will lead to a coughing fit at the top. I tell him I need a bandana and he scoffs. Okay I say, you will see. At the top my breath is ragged and then I cough softly once, twice and real hard several times. You okay? he asks. I told you. I tell him as I start to breathe again. I should know my own body after 45 years, and he reaches out to hold my hand, which lasts about 15 steps before we mutually let go. I really prefer to walk without it, unless I am feeling scared (Halloween Horror Nights??) or need reassurance for some reason or another (large crowds).
We backtrack on one of the several trails strung across the gravel studded scrubby hilltop until we find the ratty Charlie Brown tree we had seen the other day. He hangs his backpack on a tree and takes out the decorations, I hang garland as he puts wire on the decorations, finally topping it with a star. It looks great I say, as I take out my camera. Wait, he says, we aren’t done. Then he takes two white doves out of the bag and arranges the garland into a shape of a heart around them. And instead of a tree skirt we put apples, carrots and bread at the base of the tree, which the dog is quite curious about, indeed.
I am grinning so hard my cheeks, which are half frozen in the brisk wind, hurt. I cannot stop grinning. I throw my arms around him and tell him, you are so wonderful, you have absolutely no idea. No I’m not, he says, though he is grinning too.
We scramble down the steep slope to the low path and make our way through the swamp and reeds to a bushwhack and back to the car.
This, this, is perfect.