A couple of weeks ago, I had a conundrum stemming from the two very depressing facts that I am single and that it is the holidays. See, I needed a Christmas tree. There is a nice lot down the street from my apartment where the French Canadians come down every December and set up shop. It’s a good lot. It smells good. And the trees are nice and fat. I like the really fat ones. I put no less than 8 strings of lights on it, wrapping each branch individually from trunk to outer branch. I call it the “Galaxy Effect.”
The problem is that, because I like the big fat ones, I needed someone to help me trudge it to my house. And I wasn’t sleeping with anyone who would be contractually bound to help me. My roommate had been out of town for the past week, Salty moved to the East Village, and Meredith wasn’t answering her cell phone. I had plenty of friends who I could rope into the task, but I have been hesitant to call. Maybe I enjoy the label of the lonely girl in Astoria who buys Martha Stewart ornaments by the packaged dozen and has nowhere to hang them. So she listens to Christmas Carols on XM radio and cries while drinking Bud Light and watching King of the Hill on mute. Not that I would ever sink that low.
I was also very busy so scheduling was an issue. I had work.
I babysit/clean for Dallas and Christine 2-7 days a week. Dallas is the daddy and Christine is the mommy. I have worked for them for the past 4 years now and, on average, I spend more time with Dallas per week than anyone else in my life. See, Dallas is an actor and so whenever he’s not shooting a movie or a T.V. show or doing a play, he’s usually home.
I have the coolest bosses in the world. They are chill and artistic and popped out my two favorite kids on the planet (Pilot and Ever). They have adopted me as the 5th member of their family and I enjoy the privilege. One of the unspoken job requirements is to gel with Dallas. We often joke that I am the second wife, which is a great gig. There’s no sex or health insurance, but I am paid for time served and my two partners are easy on the eye and my temperament.
While Christine is my first love and primary life-partner, Dallas and I have an equally cool thing going on. We chill. I watch him play Grand Theft Auto and he listens to my jokes and laughs at the funny ones. He never gets a beer for himself, without offering me one. He reluctantly tells me stories about movie stars when I ask questions.
“So, is Christian Bale tall?”
“I guess he’s about normal.”
“Wow! Yeah, he seems like he would be. That’s great.”
Dallas listens to my problems and sits through my single-life stories. He sometimes offers advice. He sometimes offers me Triscuits and Hummus. I can’t help but say, he’s become a good friend.
Last week, unknown to me, he must have heard one of my pleas to an unsuspecting friend. I was on my cell phone.
“Hey Leanne!…Yeah…I’m good. Great actually. How’s the guy?……Yeah? Is it everything you thought it would be?………He DID get into medical school? Good, cause I was wondering!…….No, I know he doesn’t need the income cause of the whole inheritance thing……Awesome!……No! Really? A puppy? How adorable!……….No, I do know what I’m missing it’s just with the spin class schedule and everything……..Oh…you have to go?…..No No No!…of course. We’ll catch up over margaritas. Listen, before you go…..do you think you could help me with my Christmas Tree this weekend?…….Yeah, maybe Saturday?………Ohhhh! No, of course not! No!!….I think it’s adorable that you and Craig are planning an afternoon making hand-made ceramic ornaments for your families…Really?…His grandmother is coming along? Oh no, that’s priceless….not to be missed! Okay, well, I’ll call you next week!…..Muah! Muah! Muah! Bye-Bye!”
The thing is I had no idea how much a decent Christmas tree weighed. I had no idea if I could handle it on my own. After the initial challenge of getting it home, there was the exceedingly more difficult challenge of getting it into the stand. See, you have to make sure it is straight and have to drive the metal screws into the trunk. I have never done this as a one-person job. Could I hold up the trunk?
The day before last, I was cleaning and Dallas was pre-occupied with an upcoming audition so our conversation was more aimed at each other than hitting each other. As I am good at my job, I knew to back off and clean while contemplating my inevitable and eternal solitude. Two blocks and a Christmas Tree. Such a simple problem, but the embarrassment of admitting you have a problem was the problem. I was suddenly an alcoholic who didn’t want anyone too see the bottles. Though my booze was a 6-foot Fir from outside of Montreal.
I was dusting off a shelf in the dining room when I heard Dallas walk down the hallway and stop. I turned around and he was just standing there, looking a bit awkward.
“Hey Mags, I know you didn’t ask or anything, but…I’ll help you bring home your Christmas tree if you want.”
I can’t say I didn’t fall for him a little bit in that moment because I had to stop myself from crying. Maybe it was because he was a guy. Maybe it was because it was December 13th. But I think it was more than that. He was the family I had inherited and I realized they would never let me fall too far into Bud Light and King of the Hill. And I had no excuse to do that while he was around. While they were all around. Maybe it’s a blessing and a curse. When you have that many people around you who love you, it becomes impossible to slip through the cracks into binge drinking and a Martha Stewart inspired Christmas tree.
Two days later, I got my Christmas tree. I felt too embarrassed to take Dallas up on his offer, it seemed to be enough that it was there. The French Canadian who sold it to me showed me how to carry it home on my own. And it turns out, I was strong enough to hold up the trunk. I write this entry now, sitting in the light of my beautiful tree and my store-bought ornaments.
But there is one addition. Before Dallas and Christine and the boys left for Florida for the holidays, Pilot handed me my present. It was wrapped in a gift bag with the picture of a little boy on each side. There was a note.
When you do find your ‘Fortune” I know that our ‘Thing One’ and ‘Thing Two’ will always remain deep in your heart. I hope that in the New Year, it is not only you who makes our life possible, but us who makes your life possible. And that you keep finding your voice and keep writing, writing, writing.
We love you. Merry Christmas.
C D P E.”
It was a Christmas ornament. For my tree. Two gold fortune cookies connected by a red ribbon.
It’s such a funny thing being alone. It’s such a bitch. Because, for the lucky ones, there is no way to be alone without realizing how incredibly surrounded you are. There is no way to ignore the fact that your life is so annoyingly possible.