December 14, 2010

Tannenbaum

When our kids were little, we always took a whole afternoon to get the Christmas tree. We’d dress warm and spend hours tramping around a farmer's field, knocking the snow off branches of trees and arguing about whether or not the tree we’d picked was big enough before finally choosing one to cut down.

Last year, when we realized that the kids were really too old to get excited about choosing the Christmas tree, my husband and I went by ourselves to look for a tree. We found a local farmer who sets up a Christmas tree stand in a parking lot in the middle of a nearby village. He and his teenage sons were so cheerful and nice about helping us choose a tree that we agreed to go back to the same place this year.

“But still, it’s not as much fun without the kids,” I said to my husband last week. “I miss the kids being little.”

He looked up from his laptop. “I know a kid who would love to come with us.”

When we picked up Little Biker Boy Saturday evening, he was wearing new fingerless gloves. “Look!” he yelled. “I look like Boy in Black now!”

“Yep,” I said. “You look just like one of my sons.”

“They gave me new clothes at school,” he said. “And toys. And some wrestling magazines.”

I looked at him as he climbed into the car.

“It was my last day,” he said. “I hafta go to a new school on Monday.”

He’d never been to a Christmas tree stand before. The cut trees were leaning against wooden stands, rows and rows of them, with leftover trees piled in the snow banks. Strings of white lights looped above our heads.

“I’m taking a picture in my head,” Little Biker Boy announced. “I’ve got 31 pictures of you in my head.” He stood still for a minute, as if he was memorizing the scene.

That was the last time he stood still.

He ran up and down the rows, touching the trees and putting his face up to smell them. Every time we almost chose a tree, he’d change his mind and run over to look at a different tree. He picked up a cut branch lying in the snow, and swooshed it through the air as if it was a light saber. He barged into the little trailer, and then yelled to the farmer, “Is this where you live?”

He was fascinated by the baling machine. When a couple bought a tree, the farmer lifted the tree and pushed it through the machine, and the tree came out the other side all bound with twine. Little Biker Boy climbed up onto the back of the machine and would have dived into it headfirst if I hadn’t grabbed the back of his jacket.

The teenage boy who was helping us was endlessly patient. Every time Little Biker Boy would point to a tree, he’d pull it out and hold it up so we could see how tall it was, and how full. Then Little Biker Boy would say, “I see a better one over there,” and he’d point to the other end of the lot.

When I figured we’d all had enough, I said quietly to Little Biker Boy, “If we have enough time, we can get pizza and bring it home.”

Little Biker Boy pointed to the tree that my husband was looking at. “Okay, that one.”

Within minutes, we had the tree tied to the roof of the car. My own kids were home by the fire when we arrived. Boy in Black was working on his laptop, Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter was grading psychology exams, Shaggy Hair Boy was playing the piano, and With-a-Why was reading a book. “We have pizza!” Little Biker Boy announced. “And chicken wings! And I picked the tree! And I look just like Boy in Black now.”

My daughter smiled and gave him a hug. Boy in Black held up his own fingerless gloves. With-a-Why looked up and said, “I’m hungry.” Shaggy Hair Boy began playing “O Tannenbaum.”

We put the tree in the corner of the room, and I filled the stand with water. Little Biker Boy got down on the floor to sneak behind the tree, and then kept crawling around and around, like a wind-up toy.
Around and around

14 comments:

BrightenedBoy said...

The way that he has adopted you, and the way that your own children have embraced him, is so touching.

I'm very happy that he is still close by, and if there's one good aspect to his mother's situation it's that her poverty will likely prevent her from moving any considerable distance away.

You've done and are doing a very good job with all of these children.

I only hope that Ponytail will be able to visit soon, too.

Artist Friend said...

Merry Christmas to Little Biker Boy!

liz said...

Sending love to you all.

Kris said...

What wonderful memories you are making with/for Little Biker Boy. I just love "I'm taking a picture of you in my head."

sko3 said...

I don't know what to say. I wish he still lived next door.

YourFireAnt said...

What a great post, Jo(e). Brought tears.


T.

Jules said...

I love that you get to see him. I still worry about his sister.

Val said...

Why is he changing schools mid-school year?

Songbird said...

Crying here.

jo(e) said...

Val: At first, I figured it was because they moved. (They are now closer to a different elementary school.) But his mother says that he's going to go to a school that's on the other side of the city, a special school for kids with behavior problems. That's all the info I've got. This kid has changed schools many times.

I asked him if he'd seen Ponytail. He said yes, that she was visiting his older sister and her baby that weekend. I asked about the younger brother. He said he hadn't seen him since he moved, but thought he was living with the father of Ponytail. There's another older brother, too, but he hasn't seen him two years, ever since the night that Ponytail's father attacked him. He lives with his father. The mother has said nothing about the younger kids, and I don't like to probe too much. I need to tread carefully if I want to be able to stay in touch with Little Biker Boy.

Val said...

I understand.

sherry said...

"I've got 31 pictures of you in my head."

This is possibly the saddest and happiest line in the entire post.

I nominate that phrase for your headstone.

kathy a. said...

sounds like one of LBB's best days evah! and he needed it, with the stress of starting a new school on top of all the recent changes.

i'm crying, though, because this poor boy has so much sadness. because his old school gave him presents. because he'd never been to a christmas tree lot. because the gloves helped him think he was like one of yours. and -- well, there is a lot to cry about here.

kathy a. said...

it seems to me there's a good chance the new school will make special efforts to help LBB -- and your experience shows that he responds really well to a positive approach and individual attention. at least, i hope that is the approach they take.

his mom may not like the new school so much. they may well be poking into all the disruption at home, or at a minimum advising on what she should be doing to help her boy.