When the suggestion of decorating the house with a Christmas tree, colorful lights, and signs in our living room window that screamed "HO HO HO" came up, the Scrooge in me bubbled to the surface. I told my then-roommate Loren, "We're not gonna waste our time on that festive holiday shit!" He was disappointed by my attitude and shuffled away, while I secretly delighted in his misery because his wild-bordering-on-psychotic enthusiasm was wearing on me at the time.
But two weeks before Christmas, an item at the neighborhood Walgreen's store caught my eye: it was a small pine tree, the base of which was wrapped in burlap. And it was on sale for 99 cents! I skipped up the sidewalk, humming "Jingle Bell Rock," with my new purchase at my side. I had caught the spirit, and I was bringing it home. No more "bah humbugs" would come out of my mouth. I was ready to spread joy.
I stood at my kitchen counter, scooping dirt into a large plastic green flower pot, as I was going to transfer the burlapped pine into it's new home. And I was going to set the lovely little tree on the dining room table as a symbol that would remind us of peace and joy every time Loren, my other roommate Doug, and I sat down for a meal.
I whistled "Silver Bells" as I was about to put the tree into the new pot. Loren walked into the kitchen, looked at my project, and yelled, "What are you doing?!"
I said, "I'm not gonna be mean anymore. Look! I got a Christmas tree!"
Loren stared straight at me and declared, "That's not real!"
"What?" I asked.
He then picked the pine tree up and threw it against the wall where it hit with a loud THUD and dropped to the floor. I fell onto my knees, examining the tree closely and realized that it was actually a thick piece of wire with plastic branches jutting out from the center.
Loren stifled a wicked laugh, as tears came to my eyes. He pointed to the tag on the tree and read, "Natural Look."
He couldn't hold it back. He laughed with glee, as I fled to my bedroom to pout after throwing the fake tree into the trash. Minutes later he came to my door, offering his condolences. I told him to go away, I didn't want to talk to him, I was upset, I was mad that he laughed at me, leave me alone. He did so, and I sat there, dejected and deflated and drained of any and all Christmas spirit.
An hour later, there was a knock on my door. "What do you want?!" I screamed. No one said anything. "What is it, for God's sake?! Come in!" No one came in.
I trampled to my door, opened it, and saw, sitting on the ground, a potted pine tree decorated with ornaments and little holiday knick-knacks. The tree was real and fresh and green and smelled great.
I immediately went up to Loren and gave him a big holiday hug and said, "Thanks for the tree. That's a nice thing you did. I'm really touched that you care."
"I don't care, actually," he said. "I felt guilty. It's a gift of guilt."
There's something to be said for wild-bordering-on-psychotic enthusiasm.