It’s bitterly cold when we pull into a snowy parking spot in the alley behind the post office, where a cafe owner is selling Christmas trees on the side, and I run quick up the wood steps and into the shop, bringing the man behind the counter down with me, into the biting wind.
We choose one fast, and the tree hangs out our trunk but he ties it tight. My hands are burning with the cold though it’s only been 10 minutes. My light-weave gloves are worthless now, in this hard freeze that’s settled here. The bank says it’s 19 degrees but the windshield is every so much lower.
We eat dinner at a 24 hour diner, thick Angus burgers with greasy fries, and we laugh because we’re eating with the senior citizens and all around are the perfectly-formed white curls of old women and old men are hunching deeper into jackets. He orders a milkshake; I sip coffee and slowly feel warm again.
It’s the end of the semester for him, and the end of a frenetically busy few weeks for me. And back home again we string lights and hang ornaments out of ferret reach and laugh when they discover the water at the base of the tree, how they think it’s somehow better than the water in their bowl.
Vesper’s tail bushes thick in excitement. Alaska sways on her ample hindquarters, nose twitching, paws patting at the needles before she drops down, surprised by the poke. Both drink long from the tree water, come up spluttering when they dip to deep into it.
He puts on Christmas music and makes us tea and I put the nativity set on the mantle and hang stockings underneath and think of the stocking I’m missing, until Vesper tries to catch the one I hung and makes me laugh.
We watch tv shows in bed and it’s warm and I sleep deep into the morning.
Today I finish my Christmas shopping, out with way too many other people who, like me, just realized that Christmas is just barely over a week away. My house smells of fresh pine. Vesper’s tail bushed again when she found the tree was still there.
And finally my lists and work projects recede and the white lights on the tree fill my soul and I turn on the carols again, just because it’s fun.
I’m finally starting to feel like Christmas.