LOST & FOUND (A CHRISTMAS STORY)December 10, 2013
My wife and I decided not to exchange gifts this year. We’re both framed in the mind of giving to Madison during this season of our lives. There’s a fine line between the roles of young parents and young couples, a line we’re constantly tottering like a see saw in the playground of our days, but that’s not to say we’ve agreed to neglect each other this Christmas. In a way, we’re each getting one gift a piece (we just happened to pick them out ourselves and failed to wrap them or place them under the tree).
Allison came across a deal (too good to pass up) on a bag she wanted so she purchased it. I decided to get a trash can. Yep. One I’ve had my eye on for a while. Merry Christmas to me! It has a small footprint and a pedal and a self initiated, quiet-closing lid and provides the option of hiding the trash bag so it isn't an eyesore. It’s sleek. It’s everything our current failure of a foot-pedaled trash can wants to be when it grows up.
A gift fit for an adult. A gift that reminds me of Christmas 2010…
…Allison and I had just purchased our first home. She was a few months pregnant with Madison and I was exhausted from moving our belongings into our new house on Christmas Eve. We didn’t have a tree. We didn’t have stockings hanging from the mantel. We didn’t have any decorations indicating this was the most wonderful time of year. All we had were each other and boxes as side tables and our entire lives ahead of us.
The next morning was Christmas and we woke to find everything exactly as we left it when we permitted sleep to take us hostage the night before. Boxes on top of boxes beside boxes underneath boxes that Allison started digging through. One cardboard container was emptied with its contents on the floor behind her while she tore open another then another until she surrounded herself with the material survivors of our previous dwelling.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
She looked at me like a disappointed child who finished opening all of her gifts yet didn’t receive the one toy she wanted the most. “I can’t find my phone,” she said reluctantly.
We spent the next few hours looking through and over everything we owned. Glasses and vases and books and picture frames and… stuff. I asked about the last time she remembered having it, my mother’s question albeit in my voice, and we retraced our steps. The memory surfaced of packing things at our apartment; the recollection of picking up the object of our search to call her best friend with a pregnancy question. Did I just feel the baby kick? Was that gas? I want a doughnut. You know, pressing inquiries amidst bubble wrap and boxes begging to be fed and piles of trash and roles of tape.
Then suddenly, the truth revealed itself. I saw the look in her eyes, the look she gets when she finds the word she’s hinted around for five sentences until it comes to her. The look she gets when she remembers the movie an actor starred in while we spent an entire episode of some show trying to guess. The look when she knows something.
“I think I accidentally threw it away while we were packing,” she confessed with quiet assurance.
I spent the next 30 minutes in the dumpster of our old apartment building tearing open bags of Christmas trash while my pregnant wife cheered me on. The ripped remains of wrapping paper stuck to my leg by a sticky substance I knew better than to question. I moved bags I opened to one side and bags I knew weren’t ours to another while slowly preparing Allison for the news this search may come up empty. She encouraged me to continue and I did. Several minutes later she started crying because she realized her pictures and videos weren’t backed up, I remember attributing the tears to a hormonal side effect of pregnancy. If anyone should be crying in this situation, it should be the guy knee deep in the leftover evidence from everyone else’s Christmas morning.
Finally, I pulled sections of paper from a bag without candy canes or Santa faces on it and recognized the contents from our own personal discard pile. I felt around for something solid in a world of tree fate before my hand landed on an item small and substantial. I wrapped my fingers around it and shook off everything blocking the view from my elbow down until I saw the phone in my palm.
I handed Allison her cellular device, the morning’s most sought after gift, as if it were the precious baby Jesus Himself. I saw the smile cover her face like a winter blanket and heard her whisper thank you then I climbed out of the dumpster. We drove home in silence as if there were an unspoken agreement not to discuss the last filthy hour of our lives. I took a shower while she shuffled through the mountains of chaos that was now home sweet home for the phone charger.
That was the Christmas I went dumpster diving and this will be the Christmas I get a trash can.
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