THE BOOK SHOP, THE ORPHAN AND THE TREE LIGHTS

Nothing reflects my happiness more than cavorting down my corridor, thanking my invisible audience and posing for invisible photographers to get my best side. The older I get, the more rare these moments of preposterous, child-like excitement become…

Child-like excitement is my favorite thing. It commands absolute attention, so for the time it dominates my serotonin levels I forget about my troubles and yearnings. In that moment, my happiness is pure and I’m light and free.

I felt like that today. A friend and I found a mysterious, off-the-beaten-path, second hand book shop and spent hours spilling over familiar and unfamiliar titles. My mind took me back to my grandfather’s poor little farmhouse where I hated spending vacations. My only escape was my great-grandmother’s room, filled with the smell of her spicy perfume and a wonky little bookshelf overflowing with romance novels. I spent days…weeks…months reading those novels over and over. They stole me away from the farm and my unhappy home and my unhappy everything else.

I love second-hand books. They are stories within stories. There is the tale told by the author, and then there is the other story. The story of how and where and why it was first purchased and read, and then the journey it took to be abandoned at the second-hand shop.

It is magical.

I spent the rest of the day buying gifts for a ‘shoebox Christmas gift’ project. Each buyer ‘gets an orphaned child’, so to speak, to spoil over the Festive Season.

Sure, it’s a good thing to do, yada yada yada. But for me it was also a little selfish, because I got something from it that I did not expect. Moms and dads anticipate their kids’ needs and provide for it. My child-free ass provides only for myself and my cat. While my cat is insanely snooty and uppety and overly critical, his needs are easily fulfilled by asskickingly expensive food. But to provide for a child… To choose pens that would help her succeed… To choose clothing that would both cover and inspire… To pick out soap and lotion and cloths and things and think about what she may need. The privilege of the thing just made me feel intoxicated.

I came home tired and much, much poorer. I should’ve worked, I should’ve marked some tests, but the idea of reading student work made me feel a little homicidal, so I decided rather to put up my Christmas tree. I’ve never done it this early because December is for all this Christmassy. But it’s 2020 and it’s my house, so I put up my deeply ugly, old, plastic Christmas tree.

This old, plastic tree is also the one that’s been carrying about a ton of lights every year, even when my parents were still alive. And it’s the tree that my cat attacks every year with sheer elation. The little lights flicker like they did last year…like there was no Covid and no lockdown and no tears.

And suddenly I feel wonderful. Happy and free and happy. I’ve been blessed far beyond what I deserve. The sands of my life is running out and when the final few grains roll down the heap, I hope I remember that, how blessed I’ve been; how many moments of sheer happiness I was privileged to enjoy.

Tomorrow I resume test-marking. So despression and hopelessness will return. But tonight…triumph! And wine…

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