I saw Joey last night. I touched his hair. It was beautiful.
Before you think I am starting to lose it…again, let me stop you. This wasn’t a moment of hallucination or a dream. It wasn’t some drunken stupor or a figment of my imagination. I saw him as clearly as you are seeing the words on this page. Humor me, while I explain.
I stopped at my local grocery store last night. It was crazy busy! Dinner time, Holidays, last minute milk runs. I was able to snag an empty stall right in front of the store. Fresh christmas trees were lined up all long the front of the store. I saw this little boy of about 6 or 7 years old running ahead of his parents. Something made me take a second look. He ran back towards them as glanced at the LED light from my car. The excitment was written all over his face. His eyes were dancing in delight! He was so cute and excited, that I chuckled out loud. His dark brown wavy hair and large brown eyes reminded me of Joey. I watched as he grabbed his moms hand and pulled her towards this 10 foot tree that would require atleast 3 people to load it on a car rooftop. The mom looked over her shoulder in an attempt to locate the man with them. He had stopped to stand up a tree that was no taller than he was. The mom gently pulled the young boy towards the man and the average sized tree before him. I could see the little boy resisting. As far as he was concerned, he had found ‘the tree’! For some reason, I just sat and watched in anticipation of what was to follow.
I didn’t understand why I was so fixated by the events unfolding before my eyes. Maybe it took me back to when I would take my own childrent to pick out our christmas tree. This was before the day that artificial would become a norm in my house. I could leave it up longer, it was less messy, and it can handle the heavier ornaments. Memories of walking through the tree farms and the smell of christmas evergreen came floooding back to me. I remember trying to find the perfect one, all while I tried to keep an eye on my two toddlers running from tree to tree. It never failed, Joey would always find THE tree. Sometimes it would be crooked or missing branches, but he would always say “Momma, dis it duh twee Santa will wook foe”. His pronounciation got better as he got older. Still, no matter how much I tried to discourage him as I showed him a real magestic looking tree, he wouldn’t budge. His eyes of disappointment would always win me over. And there is where saw Joey.
I saw Joey in the face of that little boy. The determination that he had found THE tree that Santa would look for. I saw his shoulders hang when his dad shook his head. His mom started brushing ther hair off of his face, bending over to tell him something. The little boy shook his head then nodded. I could feel the joy escaping him. His mom walked over the the man and said something to him. I wanted to yell out, ‘GET HIM THE TREE! DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND LIFE ISNT PROMISED, GET THE DAMN TREE!”
I sat in my car trying so hard to will the man to just buy the tree. I think I was just as disappointed as that little boy. Out of the corner of my eye, the presence of the sales person shook me out of my trance. I didnt know how long I was sitting there, but I knew I needed to get home. I got out of the car and I started to walk past them. I could see the little boy, fidgeting with the branches of his tree as his dad talked to the salesperson. I stopped and said to him, “Ooohhh it’s that your new tree?” “No”, he said, “daddy said we needed a smaller one.” “Aw man, that’s ok, though, because Santa know where ALL the trees are at!” He said, “Yea, but he could see a real big one from far, far away! Do you have a big, big tree?” “Yup”, I said. But mine is real, real big because my little boy is in heaven right now and I want him to see it.” At that moment, this little boy looked at me, straight into my eyes and said “That’s better than Santa Claus finding you.” My throat closed up. The parents were standing beside him. I could feel the tears building up. I asked if I could hug him, the mom, with tears welling up in her eyes nodded yes. I pulled him tight, thanked him and as I brushed the hair off his forehead I wished him a Merry Christmas. “Merry Christmas” he replied, “I hope your little boy see’s your tree. If not, you can ask Santa to tell him”….‘tears’
I wandered into the store and grabbed my groceries. I kept hearing that little boy’s sweet voice. As I walked out to my car with my packages, I saw the little boy and his mom again. He was holding her hand and was jumping up and down. He was singing his own version of ‘Santa Clause is coming to town’. His mom kept trying to have him control his excitement. I looked over to find his dad. There he was… his dad and 2 clerks. They were helping him tie down this 10 foot tree to the top of their suv.
Merry Christmas, Joey