The Best Part of Breaking Up

This will be my first Christmas away from family and friends back east. In an attempt to offset any homesickness, I immediately set out to create new memories. My first step was possibly a bit much: I nearly drowned myself in holiday cheer via a constant stream of Christmas tunes on Pandora. Step two was better: I embarked on a mission to get holiday spirit into the house. Literally. Girl needed a tree.

In hindsight, it was kind of cute how enthralled I was as I scouted through the lots, like some sort of Tree Whisperer, waiting for the one true pine to murmur sweet nothings in my ear. And boy, did he ever. He was a nine-footer. Tall and lean, like a skyscraper with a few unfinished floors. His scrappiness reminded me of an ex-beau, which is how he got his name: Hello, Henry! Now, Henry wasn’t as round and fertile as the eight-footers. No, Henry stood taller, and apparently, that additional 12 inches came with a hefty price hike, too. I haggled with the unreasonable tree vendor, trying to keep the New Yorker within me at bay. Despite my charms, he refused to cave. For three days I drove by the lot slowly, eyeing my Henry and glaring at Tree Guy—until finally he melted under one of my wicked smiles. Tree Guy couldn’t help acknowledging defeat as I bounced around Henry like a victorious two-year-old. My drive home with Henry was more like a parade. Spectators smiled at the beacon of spirit tied on the roof of my BMW. Henry also proved infectious in his ability to spread mirth. For one thing, I had fun watching the hot friend I’d roped in to “help” singlehandedly wrangle Henry into place. In return, it was fun for my hot friend to watch me squeal with joy as I discovered that all nine feet of Henry did fit. Snugly. (Yes, girl still has a spatial eye!) I pulled out the bin of decorations and admired the ornaments I have collected over the years, but I ultimately decided none would be hung because, well, they didn’t feel like Henry. I was quickly reminded of the frustration shared by many as I plugged in the strings of lights only to realize a few sets were––well––kaput. I adapted quickly and decided only a few strings were needed. After all, less was always more, and in this case, the minimalism added to Henry’s brand. With 12 extra inches, Henry doesn’t need more lights to compensate for anything.

The next few mornings I had the seasonal pleasure of waking up with burning eyes because of Henry’s pungent fragrance. I fed the thirsty guy like a proud parent. On one of these mornings, with Josh Groban crooning “O Holy Night” in the background, I marveled at Henry. How amazing it is that we have been trained to accept the tree, an isometric shape, as a symbol of eternal life—generosity, good will, and hope. As I contemplated all of the end-of-year holidays and traditions, along with my own good fortunes minus the hardships, I thought about the level of happiness this silly icon has given me. At that moment, I decided there was only one thing my Henry was missing. Henry was in need of family. Henry was in need of a family that was in need.

A Google search led me to Adopt-A-Family, run by Our Lady of the Angels. I spoke to the director’s assistant, Emma Godinez and learned that the 400-plus families in the program were hand-picked by the program’s director and church pastor from the poorest sections of Skid Row in Los Angeles. She told me a story about a multi-generational household of eight living in a one-bedroom apartment. It appears I’m too late to adopt a family for the 2012 season, but during our chat, Godinez mentioned that Christmas trees are often on the family wish lists and not many ever get one. Because these families are in need of the most basic things, a tree is considered a luxury. That settled it: Certainly Ms. Godinez can find a family to enjoy Henry.

So this week, I will be working on getting several Henrys, along with some crafty decorations and some boxfuls of (always needed) food, to Our Lady of the Angels. As I enjoy what could be my last few moments with my Henry, I find myself getting sad to let him go. O good lord… not another break-up! Yes, the girl is human—emotionally charged is more accurate, but hey, that’s my thing.

I know of many people from all walks of life who have found themselves grasping with ugliness of all kinds this year—cancer, family suicides, bankruptcy, you name it. However, no matter how dire our own situation might seem at times, chances are, we each know of a story of someone worse off than ourselves. No matter how small or large the gesture: Let’s all gift it forward. Sometimes, this notion of giving, especially when we feel most stretched ourselves, feels daunting, like we’re trying to hold ourselves to some unreachable standard of saintly human kindness. But that’s not true. I heard someone say just the other day, “The only person you need to strive to be better than is the person you were yesterday.”

Happy holidays, Henry. May your presence bring some additional joy to others.


Volunteers and Sponsors needed as early as August 2013 for Our Lady of The Angels Adopt-A-Family Program.
And if in New York City, check out and support the year-round efforts of Hearts of Gold.

Filed: boys, cause marketing, family matters

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