4&20 Scraps is the start of my attempt to write something–anything–every day. I’m so wrapped up in revisions, it sometimes feels like I don’t get to create anything new anymore. I’m allowing myself the leeway to write about anything, be it a memory, something that happened during the day, a character study, so I don’t stress about how to fit my daily writing scrap into a box. It’s not going to be themed or prompt-based. This is a free-for-all.
Please bear with me. I may be writing these at the end of a long day, after a strong drink, and/or when I feel like doing anything but writing, which happens more often than I care to admit. I might tell stories I’ll regret the next day because they say too much about my faults or my personal life. But it will be what it is and who I am.
I will, of course, also continue to post the usual stuff on this blog as well.
The winding 110 freeway was ink and hale. A cherry red Cadillac swam across Los Angeles and, inside the cabin, buzzed with something, maybe excitement delicately laced with fear.
I can’t remember who screamed, “I’m sitting in the front,” first, but, for once, it didn’t matter. We talked incessantly, sang Christmas songs with Natalie Cole, pretended the torment above our heads or the prospect ahead wasn’t terrifying. Mom’s face was a flickering light bulb–lit by encouraging smiles one minute, darkened by intense concentration the next. We slalomed down the exit ramp. The one we took on bright, sunny days. Pre-history. And before long halos spangled milkily on a guarded Pasadena street. The tires crunched over slick gravel and three pairs of feet swung out of the car to kick across the parking lot.
My sister and I breathed the cold scent of pine. They were perfect all of them, but that night we were in the business of choosing one winner. One to join our family of three, to stand tall and steady in our home during the long winter nights. We began the ritual which started with a solitary run down the aisles between the trees. I fell deeper into the trance, turning the crunch of gravel under my feet to the crunch of snow. Turning my short curly hair to long locks, my pony legs into the long, slender legs of a woman, smoothing my pimply skin to suppleness. When the deception was just right, before it was broken by the end of the aisle where I’d shoot out into the bright lights of the garden center and find my sister beside me, I was a princess in a quartz forest, lost but on the verge of discovery. Discovering what, I didn’t know.
The slick diamond dust gathered in the air around the three of us. We had found each other again. We had found our tree.
“This one,” said my mom to the bemused seller of holly and pine. He looked at us–my mom, my sister, me, not much different in height and build. Three pygmies pointing at a giant. “We want this one.”
The tree shuddered as it landed on the car top. We hadn’t thought to bring a tarp or even a sheet. Mom shrugged at the scratches in the red paint, the scratches on a car that was a gift to her from my dad, and herded us into the car.
The lacy edge of fear still lingering in the car now wrapped around us and scratched at our skin. We hushed the carolers on the radio and listened to the tree drag its branches across the roof–right to left to right to left–as we warily guided it through Eagle Rock. The drive up the steep climb of Wildwood Drive was the final test. When we parked in front of the door our smiles returned. While my sister ran into the house for a cup of cocoa, my mother and I stared down the hostage atop the car. My sister returned to supervise the task and we got to work.
Branches broke, fireworks of pine needles exploded in the hallway, sweat mingled with rain, but the tree was in the house, tip to trunk. And the way it went from the hallway to the tree stand is like magic in my memory. So I’ll say the winter wind lifted it off the floor and planted it there.
Not long ago, not years ago, my father drove us down the darkened streets while we sang carols. And not long ago not years ago he played the winter wind that, like magic, lifted our tree and stood it upright. But not that year or the years after.
My mom, my sister, and I stood around the tree awhile. And, once certain it was steady, we could return to our routine. We could stoke the fire and unpack the ornaments and be merry. Because we had done it. We had conquered Christmas. Just the three of us.