A Christmas story

christmas tree.jpg

News that Greenwich's Christmas tree recycling program has begun sparked a memory from some years back.

On Thanksgiving Day, 2011, while I was preparing the holiday feast in my mother's kitchen, I heard a crash from her office. I rushed in and discovered that she'd suffered a massive stroke. This vibrant, wonderful, 88-year-old woman who was even then getting straight As at Norwalk Community College, never regained her ability to speak, and barely recognized her children. So it was a bad Thanksgiving, and Christmas a month later wasn't going to be much better.

My mother was beloved by her grandchildren and one of them, my niece Naomi, came east from California to see her, arriving the morning of Christmas Eve with her little boy Asher. Asher's father, a former Marine (sniper, then JPL engineer), had drowned before Asher was born, so he was being raised by his widowed mother. Naomi is a fantastic mother, but there's a undercurrent of sadness in the story of a young widow, a young boy, and no father. Couple that with "Mun-Mun"  in the hospital, and things weren't awfully cheery in the Fountain home.

So that's the set up; here's the point: We hadn't bothered decorating my mother's house — why bother? — and Asher was distraught when he arrived to find that there was no Christmas tree. "Distraught" is perhaps too mild a term — he was devastated. It was then about 3:30, Christmas Eve, and the chances of finding a tree vendor in Greenwich still open struck me as nil, but I loaded Asher in the car and, warning him of our unlikely prospects, we set out to find a tree. 

Sure enough, nothing. The Jerombeck Brothers' stand across from St. Catherine's had shut down for the season and so, too, had every other spot we tried on the Post Road. It was getting dark by now, but I had a sudden thought, which I passed on to Asher: the town had a a space at Tod's Point for residents to drop off their trees for recycling after Christmas. Maybe, I suggested, some family had celebrated early before heading off to the Caribbean, or a ski vacation, and left a tree behind before they left. The odds were very much against us, I cautioned, maybe 100-0, but why not try? 

It was almost dark by this time, and we arrived at Tod's just a few minutes before it closed. We drove to the collection point and discovered only one, solitary tree, but it was perfectly shaped, in prime condition, and exactly the right height to fit my mother's low-ceilinged living room. I mumbled something to Asher about there being a God after all, we loaded up the tree and returned to his great-grandmother's house. His uncles and cousins showed up, a fire was lit, the ornaments retrieved from the attic, and a great Christmas Eve was achieved after all.

So that's my Christmas story. I hope all of you have similar memories to draw on in times of sadness and, for that matter, joy. And, if a reader out there remembers dropping off a tree in 2011 at the Point the day before Christmas, know that you did, even unknowingly, a mitzvah, and you might want to consider whether we're not all part of some higher plan.

I know I do.