I go to the Christmas tree lot on my own
because of the pandemic,
and I line up in the rain,
just distanced enough
from everyone else
to make chatting feel weird.
The lights and music are festive
but for some reason,
it makes me feel sad,
like it’s trying too hard.
I breathe in the smell of the trees
and it immediately lifts the needle of my memory
and plays an old image
of me and my mom at a tree lot,
trying to find the cheapest tree
and then me riding home without a seatbelt,
clutching the tree by its tip,
because the trunk of our old Honda Civic
my mom and I singing along
to Christmas carols on the CBC.
I point to the smallest tree in the lot.
“I’ll take that one,” I say.
I thank the guy who saws off
the bottom of the tree,
and the girl who takes my money,
whose hair is in a bun
topped with a blinking star.
I smile at everyone in the lineup
on my way out,
forgetting for a moment
that I’m wearing a mask.
And on the drive home,
I can’t find any station playing Christmas music yet
so I sing the carols I know by heart
as loud as I can,
and because my mom used to name our trees
and say it was our job to rescue the littlest one,
I call mine “Leonard”
and I tell him he smells like all the happiness
that has not been taken away.