release something into the ether that I can never edit again! Eeeeeeee!
Anyhow, without further delay, I
present to you...
The beloved husband and I bought our first house together a month before Christmas. We soon realized
that the high coved ceilings were screaming for a taller tree. However, since I am a bargain shopper, we
decided to wait until the after Christmas sales to get a really nice tree and just get a cheap one off of
Craigslist. (I am allergic to real ones, so we always go fake.) I am not going to tell you all how much money the husband and I brought in together, but I should take a moment to let you know that, at the time (ie: before the SAHM days and single income) we could have paid all our bills with one of our incomes, easily. Trust me, I am not bragging, you'll see why I even mention it soon. I also want to mention that we both worked nights, this also becomes of note. Particularly because when I found a tree for $20 on Craigslist, I had to make arrangements to pick it up later that night. It was a week night, so I was completely prepared to have her tell me to, “Get bent,” when I suggested meeting at 9:30 pm to pick up the tree. I even offered to just call her on my next day off and see if she still had the tree. She said it would be fine that night and gave me her address. I am not normally prone to go traipsing off to strange homes in the middle of the night, however, I made it a point to tell her that my husband was working graveyards that night and that I would have to hurry so that I could see him before he left. That way she would know that I was expected somewhere and couldn't just disappear. I also knew the neighborhood, it was a VERY good one, and so I took a calculated risk.
I went home first and decided that I needed to change clothes. No way was I going to wear business attire with heels to pick up a tree that had probably been stored in a dusty garage or shed for a year! Not to mention that it was 12 below zero with five inches of ice everywhere. I threw on a pair of running pants (Yes, running pants. Even thought I don't run in them. I don't break a sweat in them either so they are definitely not “sweat” pants.) and grabbed a hooded sweatshirt and some mittens to wear with my coat.
I got to the house and the lady saw me pull up. She opened the garage and waited for me to get out of my car. (A cheap basic Saturn, but that thing got 32 mpg!) As I approached to grab the tree, I went to hand her the $20.00. She told me to wait just a minute, took the tree inside her house and I could see her talking to her husband. At this point, I am starting to wonder if she was going to call the police on me as a trespasser and the whole Craigslist thing was a scheme to get someone out there. Suddenly, she was back. She had a huge smile on her face and told me that her and her husband agree that I should just take the tree and have a Merry Christmas! Astonished, I still tried to give her the twenty, but she flat refused to take it. I went home, woke up the husband for his night shift, and after he was off to work, I decided to put up the tree. I opened the box and on top was an envelope. It said, “I hope this helps you to have a Merry Christmas!” Inside was a fifty dollar bill. “What the hell is this?” I shouted at my dog. “Why would she think I needed a Christmas tree and $50.00?” Then it hit me. I probably looked homeless. I didn't drive one of the nice cars, I drove the crappy Saturn. The thick mittens had covered the 2 ct rock on my finger, and I was wearing sweat pants. (Running pants, dammit! I still maintain that they were running pants! Who in their right mind goes out in sweat pants? Um... Yeah... so... Running pants!) She probably also had the mistaken impression that since my husband was working graveyards, he worked at a gas station for minimum wage or something similar. I contemplated going back, this time in a NICE car, or just even calling her, but the lateness of the hour stopped me. I would call her in the morning. I was not going to look like a transient and I was going to pay for the damn tree! While slightly amused, I felt also a bit insulted that
she would just make that assumption based on my appearance.
The next morning I realized that the smile on her face was because she thought she was helping out someone who needed it. It would be cruel to embarrass her by pointing out her mistake. I was humiliated, but I decided the best thing to do was to make sure that she DID help out someone who needed it! I headed to Walmart where I knew there was a Salvation Army Angel Tree. I needed more ornaments anyhow. This new tree was much bigger than my last one! I stood staring at the ornaments and was horrified, I hadn't bought any “stock” ornaments in years! In fact, my tradition every year was to buy one, Wedgwood Jasperware, ornament and that was all I ever bought. All these ornaments were coated... COATED in glitter! I was NOT going to clean that up! An adorable older woman walked up to me and asked me in her sweet little voice, “Are you having a good Christmas this year?” I smiled at her and replied that I was until I realized how much they were asking for, “This cheap, glittery crap.” She reached out with one hand to pat my cheek, andgrabbed one of my free hands with the other, “I want you to have the best of Christmas holidays this year!” I felt a bit bemused as that old woman practically skipped as she walked away. I looked into my hand... and there was another $50.
OK, seriously? Maybe she had sight problems and just couldn't see the aforementioned rock on my finger. Did she not recognize my designer purse? Perhaps she didn't realize that it was a luscious lamb skin trench that I was wearing. Could she have possibly mistaken my glamorous running pants for sweat pants? Because, who would go out in sweat pants if they had a choice, right? Crap, I had managed to look destitute again. At least I knew that I could make a living as a panhandler, but I was mortified that I looked bad enough for TWO people to think I needed help. (Katie, if you are reading this, yes, I know... You told me so, I swear I get dressed properly to leave my house now... most of the time. OK, I don't, cut me a break woman! Oh wait, going off on a tangent here.) Well, now I had $100 to spend on angel tree gifts.
I trudged to the tree and started reading the requests from children on it. “I would like new sheets for my bed.” “I would like for my mom to have a coat, she is mom sized.” (This one had other handwriting stating that the mom wore a size medium. Most of them just had the kid's sizes.) "My brother and me need new underwear."
As I stood there reading all those requests from children asking for things I took for granted, things that
they thought were luxuries, my irritation and shame at looking like a vagrant turned to something else.
Instead of selfishly focusing on what people thought of my outside appearance, why wasn't I glorying
in the holiday spirit? Why did I instantly pinpoint the negative aspect of this kind and generous Christmas gesture? I made up my mind to match what those two ladies had given and cherish the whole experience! The Christmas spirit was alive and well and I was blessed enough to witness it twice in 24 hours! Because those two women chose me, a super savvy shopper, someone who was able to stretch a dollar farther than is decent, they were going to help more people than they even knew they were helping! I was going to do my part to get those kids something they needed AND something they wanted!
I have rarely felt as much giddy joy as I did shopping for those children! Every year since, when I am feeling grinchish around the holidays, I remember those two women with joy in my heart. They helped me to experience one of my most Cherished Moments.
She is a SAHM, writer, knitter, poker player, and is generally considered to be crazy.