Here’s Merry Merry, India ink and watercolor on 9×12 watercolor paper.
the tree grows inside
where no tree should ever grow
but still he stands tall
He knew people were watching.
But he had been watching, too. Watching through the windows while they opened their Christmas presents, while they feasted on their Christmas dinner, while the reveled in the company of family and friends alike.
He watched, and when the time was right, he entered and stole their tree.
If he couldn’t be with his family for the holidays, stringing garland around the tree while singing carols and eating fudge, they couldn’t either.
A year ago we got a large portion of tree in our roof. Ugh. So began the Great Tree Fight of 2014.
A relief, considering you can’t insure a 36 year old mobile home.
Those bitches lied. We went back and forth for months, and they didn’t do anything but cart off the broken limbs–some of them, while dragging them down the side of our home.
When we moved, they had first refusal. We offered our old trailer, and they declined to purchase it because it had storm damage. Ugh. Jerks.
So that’s how my brother-in-law got the place for free, on the condition that he finishes school.
When the same thing happened–a storm brought down more roof-seeking limbs–for the third time, earlier this year, they didn’t take the tree down, but they did have someone remove most of the dangerous limbs. Unfortunately, they also topped the poor pecan tree on the other side, but we don’t live there anymore, so screw it, whatever.
Okay, okay. It’s an overly dramatic title. It’s more of a steady drip-drip-drip in multiple spots.
We had a severe thunderstorm Thursday night. You know, the capable of producing strong winds in excess of whatever, seek shelter in a sturdy structure kind.
I got home from work to a driveway full of leaves and branches. No big deal, it happens. They’re mostly small and pesky. I had to clear the porch to get the screen door open, but it wasn’t raining too hard right that minute, so I wasn’t worried about the electronics in my purse.
But when I got in.
No cats to be seen. They’re usually practically foaming at the mouth for attention when Ian and I have both been gone.
Cracks run the entire width of the living room. Where the hallway meets the living room, I can see insulation through the ripped and warped ceiling.
I dropped my purse, kicked off my shoes, and peeled back my sweater. I followed the panicky mewling to the kitchen, where Amarillo sat in the middle of the floor, freaking out. I pet and reassured her, and asked where Kitten was.
I received the lack of answer that I expected and began my initial damage assessment, calling for Kitten the whole time.
When I made it back to our bedroom, I took my dress off and put on a pair of shorts to go brave the wind and rain and lightning outside.
The visible damage is confined to the living room. I still hadn’t seen or heard Kitten.
I texted Ian to call me; he was still at work. When he called back, I told him a branch had hit our roof. He agreed to call the office manager while I went outside.
I dug a flashlight out of the coffee table and, barefoot, went to check the backyard.
The flashlight I had wasn’t meant for this. Lightning lit up the sky brightly and often enough for me to see three branches, ranging in diameter from four to eight inches, a dented scrape on the wall, and a large divot on the corner of the roof.
I recognized the hollow feeling inside me. Of course I recognized it; I’ve lived in fight-or-flight mode for most of the past five years. Panic tempered with acceptance. Fear and depression and calm. Letting the situation wash over me without actively acknowledging it. Giving up, but shrugging it off to keep slogging through the crap.
I couldn’t do anything about this.
I cleared the driveway so Ian would have somewhere to park. I freed the rosebush and tomato plant from the cages of downed branches. I collected our things that had blown into and across the street.
I went inside and stripped my wet clothes off, dropping them to slap on the bathroom floor. I don’t know why; my next step was to dress again before going back into the rain.
Ian called again. Our neighbor was bringing a tarp, and if it wasn’t big enough, the manager said there was one at number thirty-seven (in a row?) big enough to cover our entire roof. I answered our neighbor David’s knock as Ian was telling me that his wife said they had a ladder in their shed. David denied it, understandably: his wife was on the phone in her hospital room, doped up on pain medication after her knee replacement that morning. He agreed to search, but no ladder was to be found.
I decided it would be a good idea to put on socks and my old, ugly pair of sneakers before I did any more wandering around in the dark, on shattered, wet branches.
Since we didn’t have a ladder, I stood on one of our outside chairs on the porch, but it wasn’t tall enough for me to see on the roof.
I realized something at that point. I’m an idiot. My best friend and her husband own and operate a painting and drywall business. They have ladders galore.
I called her, and she and her husband agreed to get dressed and come immediately. I texted Ian the news, and four minutes later, he was on his way home from work.
I waited in front of the open door for someone to show up.
My friend and her husband made it first. He had just made it onto the roof when Ian got home and parked across the street.
He called down for pitch, and I held the ladder while my friend handed it up to him.
He called down for rags, and Ian grabbed ours from our truck.
He came down with black, tarry hands, and reported that the large gash was patched.
Ian helped him clean his hands with starting fluid, then he had to clean that off.
I stayed behind while they all took a field trip to see the branches in the back, then caught my friend up in the latest news of the custody dispute while Ian and her husband investigated the ceiling.
We thanked them profusely before they left.
Ian and I locked up and went to Subway for dinner, because fuck cooking just then, you know?
We came home, ate our sandwiches, watched America’s Test Kitchen, and went to bed. I had to get up and go to work, and Ian had to get up and start our fight with the park owner.
It has not gone well so far, even though she has on more than one occarion insisted that it is their tree, and if anything were to happen to our property because of their tree, they’d take care of it, no problem.
I will freely admit that we are not an especially Christian family. I think the last Mass I attended was Ash Wednesday 2005. My husband hasn’t been to a service since 2003. When I worked at the blood center I went to church every Sunday, but that was to stab people.
But my husband loves Christmas like he’s six years old, and that’s just infectious. I never decorated my home before we got together, but you should see us now. We’re festive!
Our tree, however, will be a little more bare than usual this year, I’m afraid. No ‘unbreakable’ shiny balls, no wire ornament hangers. Not that those ever stayed on the tree before (darn cats again). We simply purchased most of our ornaments in fits of childlessness, blissfully ignorant of choking hazards and the size something has to be to not fit up a toddler’s nose.
I’m still happy with what we ended up with, although it’ll be another three months before we’re close to glitter-free.