My neighbor had to move away, at the beginning of the holiday season, because she was being terrorized by her former crackhead roommate and his chums who kept breaking into her house, taking nothing, but leaving wet smears on her carpet. One night last fall, she realized someone had been in her bedroom while she and her daughter were in the next room.
Being a seasoned member of the 'hood which we call Elmvale, I lent her my nine iron which she kept under her bed. On my advice, she also changed the locks.
We felt bad for this fearless woman, a person about my age, who rented the house so she could let her grandkids sleep over. Recently, after a last straw visit by the Ottawa cops, she moved into a small apartment, driven from her home by the walking trash that had lived beside her and kitty-corner in the very same apartment building teenaged girls were held, against their will, for the purpose of prostitution.
This is not a story about my sketchy neighborhood, though one might see this as a cautionary tale that a piece of real estate bumping up to St. Laurent Blvd. South might be an ill advised investment.
No this is a tale of a random act of kindness, the kind of human gesture that puts warmth into even the coldest heart on this Christmas 2013.
A few weeks ago, I went to the garage to get our fake Christmas tree and the lights and ornaments that I had lovingly collected over the years. I found the tree, but no decorations. I asked Nick, who lives in the basement, if he had seen them. "No," said Charlie Brown. "I didn't see them."
He didn't see them because he had thrown them all out during one of his particularly dark pot phases. There wasn't a ball. It was as if the Grinch himself had come to Roseville and absconded with all that I held dear.
Instead of following the wonderful example of the people of Whoville, I took to Facebook in a snit and announced that we were cancelling Christmas. I didn't care. I've come to hate Christmas with its mirth and merriment. Who likes Christmas when you've got only enough money to buy a few presents for the kids, and you're forced to buy your groceries on the good graces of Galen Weston's PC Plus program?
This year, I had carefully planned my Christmas to the penny and there was no money for ornaments. So there would be none. Having my own back, I took myself down to Home Hardware where I bought three strings of lights for the tree. That would be that.
Yesterday, my former neighbor sent me a text message.
Would you like some Christmas balls?
Sure. That would be great. My son threw out all our Christmas decorations when he was cleaning the garage.
I know; I saw it on Facebook.
A few hours later, she arrived with three bags of ornaments. Some were ancient ones, the sparkly icicles and balls I remember placing on my Granny's tree. There were new ones, too, three or four bags of them, ornaments she had obviously picked up for us as well as little half-painted nutcrackers that must have been doodled by her grandkids, and two sets of baby booties, one pink, one blue. What a treasure trove, old and new, some were sentimental while others were utilitarian.
By suppertime, our tree had gone from sad and miserable to lush and sparkly. As I was putting the last piece on the tree, I looked down and saw Sophie the pug batting at a silver ball and the Black Bastard Finnigan with his nose in the tree. He looked at me and smiled.
Like the ice in my margarita glass, my heart began to melt.
It took a frantic and frazzled woman, forced from her home during the holiday season, to remind me that the real spirit of Christmas lives in our hearts not our pocketbooks.
Merry Christmas from my heart to yours.