Friday, November 23, 2007

Accidental tree lighting

Today we took the visiting family to Ikea. It was a mixed success; Ikea is fun in some ways, however, if the family ends up bothered by their lack of ability to purchase shiny new things, a trip there can feel...frustrating.

We decided (okay, DAD decided) that it was be fun! to take the train Downtown. Granted, all parties were into a ride on MAX, but in general I'm not into going there unless our destination is 1. Powell's Books, 2. To see a show of some kind, or 3. Eat really good food. It was really cold, and we were only moderately prepared. Luckily, you had on your new winter coat. Dad thought it would be neat to see the gigantic tree erected in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

We got on the nearly empty train and headed into town. As we sped closer to our destination, the train began filling up, but it wasn't too busy. As the doors opened on the square and we tried to get off, we realized that we'd stepped into the Tree Lighting Ceremony, a huge event every year. There are thousands of people and we could barely make it onto the sidewalk. It was literally freezing (well, it was 33 degrees) and we didn't have the best view. You held tight to your stuffed bear and didn't seem to mind too much. We saw: a drunk, homeless, man wearing a metal mixing bowl as a helmet, while smoking a cigarette and nearly taking out a group of young Republicans with his gigantic plastic sack of clothes and bedding; a pair of men carrying signs that read, "9-11 was an inside job" and advertising a website explaining their theories; more than a few angry, stroller-bearing parents who seemingly believed it was their right to run over the feet of 10 year olds who dared get in their way (I saw one woman make an elderly man with a walker yield to her inherent need to get to Nordstrom).

I have to stop a minute. It wasn't this bad, really; I'm not that bitter. When we found a less busy spot, listening to the jazz and all the happy, excited people, I was glad we made it. At the countdown to the lights, I felt my heart speed up in anticipation. There may have been tears in my eyes as the Holiday Tree -- and all of the trees on the street -- lit up in unison. As we were riding the MAX back to our car, you fell asleep in Dad's arms. The train was busy at first, but it cleared out as we got closer to the airport. I overheard a man talking to his mom on a cell phone about his nice Thanksgiving visiting friends in Portland; he was on his way back to San Francisco. I thought about how, someday, you would be calling me from some distant place and not here with me.

Sometimes it takes a chilly night and an evergreen to help me see things clearly.

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