Monday, December 18, 2006

The Christmas Tree

Here's the second in a series of Christmas stories I wrote... let me know what you think.... I'm curious! I need comments!

Jadie didn’t know what to think. She sat in her empty dormroom, staring out the window at her dorm mates going nuts on the sunroof. They were shouting and laughing as they threw snowballs at each other, tackling each other and squealing as they ducked behind lawn chairs. It didn’t snow often in Texas, so when it did it was a real treat. It was even a bigger treat when it meant blowing off studying for finals to throw a few snowballs.

She sighed and looked down at her textbook. The last thing Jadie wanted to do was study environmental science. She longed to go run and laugh with the other girls, but she didn’t feel welcome. They had invited her of course, but she had declined. Rather, she scowled at them and had said snippily, “I have to study. One of us has to get good grades around here.” As the girls rolled their eyes, she had stared at her roommate and asked, “Don’t you have a scholarship to maintain, Maureen?” Maureen had avoided her eyes and mumbled something about needing a break, slipping out the door with the other girls.

Now Jadie was alone, feeling like Scrooge. Nothing felt right this year. College didn’t feel right, home didn’t feel right, and Christmas didn’t feel right. She hadn’t bothered to decorate her dorm room since she was going home for Christmas. What was the point? Even if it was only a few weeks until Christmas, it felt so far away. For some reason, Jadie couldn’t gather any Christmas spirit. Jadie had always loved Christmas. When she was younger she would start shopping for presents in July, and playing Christmas music right after July. But now, it just seemed empty. It felt like Christmas was missing this year.

Everywhere Jadie looked, all she saw was commercialism. Ads screaming about pre-lit plastic trees, fake wreaths and tons of decorations that you needed for a true Christmas haunted her dreams. She cringed at the sight of sales and shop displays advertising new fun gifts. Her shopping had been done in October on the Internet to avoid the holiday crowds and bad Christmas music. The whole affair simply left her feeling empty. Was Christmas just turning into an excuse to buy things and eat a lot of food? All her suitemates were stressed, her parents were stressed and everyone walked around with a scowl on their face. How could that be Christmas?

Grabbing her coat, Jadie went for a walk. If everyone else could goof off, so could she, she thought bitterly. She clomped downstairs and walked to the center of campus. Soon, she forgot about her troubles and her unhappiness. She was too busy looking at the decorations, and the enormous Christmas tree in the middle of campus. The single tree standing regally in the middle of the square, elegantly decorated, made her feel peaceful. It made her feel at home.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Jadie jumped, clutching her hands to her chest. A cute boy stood staring at her grinning. He was one of those guys that looked like a football player, and meant trouble. Jadie scowled at him. “You scared me.”

“Sorry,” the boy said, smiling. “But it’s beautiful isn’t it?”

“Yea,” Jadie looked up, the moonlight lighting her face. “It’s peaceful.”

“I think it’s more truthful,” the boy said thoughtfully. “It’s real. It means something. It really makes you feel like Christmas.”

Jadie looked at him strangely. “That’s strange. I thought the same thing.” The boy grinned at her. “Maybe we just both understand Christmas.”

“Maybe,” Jadie said, looking at the tree. Even with the decorations, the tree seemed simple, real and true. It stood regally, the ornaments reflecting silently in the moonlight.

“What brought you out here?” she asked the strange boy. “It’s late, you know.”

“I could ask you the same thing,” he said easily, fingering an ornament. “Girls don’t usually come to look at trees this time of night.”

“I just—I just needed a break,” she sighed. The tightness she felt in her chest felt like it would almost explode. She could feel the words wanting to flow from her lips, but she held back. She didn’t want to spill her guts to a complete stranger.

“Understandable,” he said quietly. He played with some of the ornaments and stayed thoughtfully quiet. Slowly, Jadie could feel herself relaxing like she hadn’t in a long time.

“It just feels so fake,” she said slowly. “Christmas, I mean. It just feels like it’s all about presents, big light displays and fake trees. Nothing seems real. People don’t even seem to enjoy it anymore, you know? It’s not even about getting someone a gift, it’s about getting someone the gift. If it’s not perfect and doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars, it doesn’t mean anything. And that’s just so—“

“Wrong?” the boy finished, nodding slightly.

“Yes!” Jadie exclaimed, feeling all the emotion explode from her chest. She immediately felt lighter, almost as if her toes could lift off the ground. “I feel so much better,” she admitted. “I’ve been wanting to talk to someone about that for a long time.”

“I’m glad you could talk,” the boy smiled. “I hope you feel better.”

“I do,” she said, smiling. When the boy remained quiet for a few moments, she felt anxious. “What do you like about Christmas?” she asked awkwardly.

“Everything,” he said simply. Jadie looked at him funny. “How can you like everything?” she asked. “I thought you just agreed there’s too much commercialism.”

“There is,” he said easily. “Nothing is perfect. Every holiday, person, animal and plant isn’t perfect. They all have the good, and they all have their bad. Sure, there may be too much commercialism. Sure, people use the holidays as an excuse to one-up each other just to feel superior, or make people feel badly about themselves. Sure, there’s lonely people or people who are missing family members over the holidays. But there’s so many good things about Christmas—the love, the laughter, the sharing, the generosity and just the spirit, that it makes all that ok. If you concentrate on the bad, nothing will ever seem good. There’s no point in making the world more depressing than it already is.”

Jadie sat quietly for a few minutes. “I never thought about that,” she said, rubbing her head. “I don’t know what to think.”

“Let me help,” the boy said, smiling at her. “Let me show you Christmas as I see it. That may help you get some of your Christmas spirit back.”

“I doubt it,” she said under her breath. Still, she couldn’t help smiling, really smiling, at him. “Let’s give it a shot!”

“Good,” the boy said. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” Jadie smiled and watched him walk away, when she suddenly gasped.

“Wait!” she cried, running after him. “I don’t know your name!”

“I’m Joe,” he said, turning back around to smile at her. “And you’re Jadie.” Startled, she stared at him. “I never told you my name,” she said suspiciously. “How did you know that?” “It’s a college campus,” he shot back. “Things get around.”

To be continued....