Our good friends weren't planning on being home for Christmas.
Instead, they were taking their family to spend the holiday with his parents.
Over six hours away.
Apparently, the extended family was getting together.
It would be . . . fun.
And because they weren't going to be at home, they had also made a practical decision.
Why put up the Christmas decorations?
Decorating took time and effort.
And no one would be around to enjoy them.
And the biggest reason to rejoice?
They would miss, entirely, the all-important (and dreaded) clean-up involved in bringing in their family's usual live Christmas tree.
It just made sense.
To my Husby, Christmas decorating fiend, it was a travesty.
He reasoned that they would be home for over half of December.
Surely they needed to decorate for those days, at least.
But they didn't.
A week before the big day, we waved them off from their front drive.
My Husby turned to look at the bare, forlorn little home they left behind.
Nestled among it's lighted, decorated neighbours.
He shook his head. “It's just not right,” he said.
Then he grinned.
Something I've learned to treat with respect.
“We'll decorate for them!”
That night, he returned from work with a special tree tied to the roof of the car.
It had been thrown into the ditch from a passing vehicle somewhere along his commute.
And had been laying there, forlorn and forgotten for most of the past year.
To say it was dead would be a vast understatement. No hint of green remained among the dry, brown needles.
He untied it and stood it up.
“Ummm . . . Oh, Christmas tree, Oh, Christmas tree! How dead and dry your branches!” I said.
He grinned. “It's perfect!”
I thought of our friends, happily enjoying the holiday in the bosom of their family.
Blissfully unaware of the clean up that would greet them the instant they arrived home.
I shook my head. “Your terrible.”
“I know!” he responded. “Isn't it great?!”
He carried the tree to our friends' house and stood it up in their front stoop.
It fit perfectly.
Brushing needles from his hands, he returned home.
A couple of weeks later, our friends returned. Happy and content from two weeks in the warmth of kith and kin.
They pulled into the drive.
They got out of the car.
And stared some more.
A tree, mostly bare, was standing in the stoop outside their front door.
The wind had playfully sculpted the piles of dead needles around it into imaginative drifts and eddies.
Somehow, during their absence, someone had sneaked onto their property . . .
And left something.
You know, I could just picture how it would look on a police report.
'Trespassers on property. Nothing stolen. Something . . . left.'
And, most importantly of all?
They had to clean up the needles.
Admittedly, the clean up was quick and easy and relatively painless.
Just a sweep and done.
But to someone who had planned to avoid it altogether?
Oh, they remained our friends.
Because they were extraordinary people.
But after that, they decorated.
It was just . . . safer.