|batman, climbing our tree|
We put our tree up today. Orange, Green, White, Blue, Purple, Pink, Red, Brown; the labels on the stems, slid in slots, bottom to top, making it easier. I never remember the order, so it's a process of measuring them and hoping you get the longest branch poking out. Last year, we wizened up and wrote hieroglyphs on the box---OGWBPPkRB. I still had to measure the black stems and scribbled in pencil a Bk in place. I miss real trees.
Stringing the lights is my least favorite part, but always on me to lay them in coverage across the green, adding as needed to fill in dark places. Christmas music is playing from the CD player upstairs---Taylor Swift, Chipmunks, Alabama, Bing. Harry Connick. The lights blink this year---something new to delight the boys. Earlier they played among the empty plastic storage boxes, building fort walls and draping blankets, creating concealment.
I am balled tight in the now vacant eaves, pulling the darkness around me. Just a faint hint of muted sunlight, from the corner, breaks the black. The smell of wood is intoxicating this far back, I am between studs, my shoulders against the dry wall and knees in my chest, stilling my breathing to a whisper of broken air.
Hear only inches away their glee. My children's shrill voices, the stomp of their feet. My heart is a thoroughbred on the far side of the finish line. I trace the wood grain of the floor with a finger, rough and unfinished. Press an ear to the wall when quiet comes. Where are they?
I scratch a bit, my fingernails on the wall, the boards. Can they hear it over the Christmas music? Do they even know I am here. Stifling the desire to yell, I focus again on breathing. The darkness is complete, my hand over the little light to see if I can feel air. It blinks. Blinks. Blinks.
'Dad?" they scream and I pull tighter into a ball.
A hard thunk blasts down the crawl space, a square of light laid on its side. A head.
'Dad are you in here?' he cant see more than a foot in front of him, into the depths.
I want to giggle. I want to be found. I want to stay hidden.
I bark and begin crawling out of the corner towards him and he jerks his head out of view, then pokes it back in. Laughing at the fear that gripped him seconds before.
'I found you,' he taunts, 'That means it is your turn to be it.'
'Fine, count to a hundred?'
'One. Two. Skip a few. Ninety Nine. One Hundred.'
'Oh, okay. One. Two. Three...'
My boys and wife run to hide, in faith I will seek them. I will always seek them.
Tree lights reflect on the window. On the black smile of the TV. Blink---red, green, blue, yellow. Counting time in color, just like me.