The Holidays for me are…
The smell of pine and saw dust, conversations, bonding and breaking.
A light drizzle encases the landscape, coating every surface in a wet layer, yet to anyone walking in the woods, they would barely notice it, if only, by their damp clothes. The snow had yet to come, something Thomas was grateful for. It made the search for a Christmas tree easier and less cumbersome, not having to waddle through an ocean of snow.
“You still with me back there, son?” he yelled behind him.
Erik was still sludging with, still yawning from the sleep he thought himself robbed of.
“Yeah, dad, stop worrying like you always do.”
Thomas smiled to himself. Perhaps he did worry too much sometimes. Letty had said the same thing to him on their wedding day, and almost every day since. And yet, he hadn’t learned to stop. There was always this constant worry, digging in his gut. He just wanted things to be okay, no matter what.
Their annual Holiday ritual was about to begin, as Thomas finally spotted the perfect tree. Standing tall with a plethora of branches topped with thousands of green needles and smelled just the like. He could already envision the ornaments decorating every nook and cranny.
“Would you do the honors this year, son?”
Erik stared unbothered at the saw Thomas held out.
“I think it’s best if you do it, dad. Wouldn’t want to ruin this tree for mom,” he replied and found a somewhat comfortable stone to set-up his viewing party.
Thomas’ muscles tensed as the saw start digging its teeth into the juicy root. As per the ritual instructions, this was the few, holy minutes Thomas got to talk to his son about anything.
“So, how’s things at the new place?”
“Dad, we already talked about this, remember? It’s going fine, moving was hell, but I’m really glad you and mom helped out. Meant a lot to me.”
“Right, right, sorry, forgive your old man, memory’s not what it used to be. I heard the traveling business has taken a hit with all these restrictions and stuff. But it’s still going well for you guys? Haven’t been any firings or layoffs?”
“It’s going. I’m not out of a job, if that’s what you’re wondering.”
The saw winced as its teeth hits an especially though part of the trunk. It seemed it wasn’t ready to part with its beloved tree yet. But that wouldn’t stop Thomas.
“That’s good, that’s good…I just spoke to Gregory, and he said that his kid was fired the other day. Worked in the same company as you, just another division. He said there had been multiple layoffs lat-”
“Dad! I said I’m doing fine, are you gonna trust Gregory or my word on this?”
“Sorry, sorry, of course I believe you son, you know I just worry sometimes.”
“More like all the time,” Erik whispered under his breath, yet the wind carried it to Thomas’ ear.
The trunk would still not budge, seemed like Thomas would have to apply some finesse instead of force.
“You know your mother and I are so glad you came home to spend Christmas with us. We barely talk to you these days, see you even less. We feel like awful parents.”
“You’re…you’re not. Stop telling yourself that, dad. I’m happy that…after everything that happened with Lindsay, I can come home here to spend Christmas with you guys.”
There, through the rough part, the saw’s teeth purring as it proceeded.
“I’m so glad we get to talk like this when the Holidays come around. Eases an old man’s heart.”
Just as the saw is about to cleave through, Erik gets to his feet in time to catch the felled tree.
“I know, dad. Even though I keep to myself and don’t often say it, I know. I love you and mom, and I always will. Don’t you ever worry about that.”
And with the main part of the ritual over, they proceeded to head home, the gorgeous tree hauled after them as idle chatter started to fill the silence.
“Oh honey, you’re home, OH MY LORD, what an absolutely beautiful tree you’ve found!”
Letty squealed with excitement as she gauged the tree, probably planning the placement of every ornament.
“Yeah, just up the hills, not too far actually, a 20-minute walk. Got to talk to Erik as well.”
Letty looked confused.
“Did you have time to visit his grave? You haven’t been gone that long…”
“No no,” Thomas chuckled.
“He went along with me, had the time finally, but couldn’t stay, had to go home and work.”
Letty watched as her smiling husband carried the tree into the living room. For once, she found herself worrying a bit. It happened every Holiday, when he went out to fetch a tree.
But she saw it in his eyes. He knew. That Erik was dead. But just that small reminiscent had brought him a joy no amount of grieving or counseling could. Her husband always wanted things to be okay, no matter what. And if this ritual is what he needed, Letty would allow it, just to see him smile again.