Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Paper Hopes

Today, amid an unexpected snowstorm,  slippery roads, a cranky waitress and other day to day detritus I noted I was beginning to feel just the slightest bit cranky. Nothing intense or overt. Emotional diaper rash would best describe the pathway my mood was taking. The grapes at my first grocery stop were moldy, the bank computer was sluggish. The diaper rash-ness intensified. Sigh. Several stops later, I was at the last errand of my day, Walmart. Entering the store, wobbly wheeled snow cover cart (two additional annoyances) in hand  it caught my eye. It was sad. It was forlorn. Just shy of forsaken. A tiny little artificial tree. It's branches were filled with less-than-perfectly-cut pieces of paper. Intended to be rectangles, many were versions of rectangles. Hung by ribbons. 

Cranky or not there was something about that tree. Those clumsily cut pieces of paper. It was a vision of imperfection. It struck me as I viewed that quasi tragic little tree that the heartfelt honest imperfectness - the humanity it proudly (even defiantly) exuded is what I've missed most about christmas for a long time. I couldn't walk by it....  It wouldn't let me.

I turned over the first beribboned paper to read the request.
In printed hand it said, simply, soap.
I turned over another tag and found, again, one word.  Deodorant.
I turned over another.
In beautiful scripted handwriting, just one word filled the space - toothpaste.
I turned over the next. A child had printed - a shirt. Any color. Any kind.
I couldn't stop turning and reading tags....
The next asked for a toothbrush. Underneath in smaller letters it said toothpaste too? 
I turned over the next revealing this wish - a comb.

 I think I stopped breathing for a moment.
I think my heart stopped for a second. Or two.
I know I felt embarrassed at my irritation over the falling snow
(snow falling on my heated home)
I know I felt absurdly foolish to have been annoyed with the waitress
(while eating my lunch out)
Like a shock of electric current it occurred to me how fortunate I am.
I hardly think about having all the things on those tags.
I hardly think of many other comforts in my life
I have never been cold, hungry, dirty, unclothed.
I have never longed for a comb, deodorant, toothbrush, or toothpaste too?
(as tho asking for a toothbrush AND toothpasste was an excessive request)
I have never had to contemplate how hard it would be to ask for those things, if needed

I'm a fairly no-nonsense, non-weepy person by nature.
But I found it growing difficult to read those little pieces of paper hope bleary eyed
I gathered as many of those beribboned odd shaped tags as my budget could cover
Next week I'm heading back to that tree again to gather and fill more wishes

I found a whole new meaning in the holidays today.
In a Walmart.
Hanging on the branches of a bent up fake tree.

Life is full of surprises.
And lessons.
And Paper Hopes

FDFerris copyright 2010


  1. You had a great day!!! OMG. Tears started coming to my eyes while reading this. I have been battling financial insecurity for a year, yet we have never run out of toothpaste and always had all those things in the tree too. I have come to learn to live with my fear. It is hardle there anymore. I always seem to get what I need and I have been more and more in love with the feeling of wanting what I have.
    It's good to read these real life stories and remember that I do have it all!


  2. We have been struggling with $ problems very bad this year too but I have wonderful parents who give us money for groceries.
    We have a tree at my church filled with requests for gifts for children who would not have a Christmas. I chose a tag for an 18 month old girl because that is how old my daughter is and the gift request was for a doll. I cried because my daughter has 4 dolls and it made me realize how blessed I am.
    My husband could have lost his finger in the accident at work instead his finger was saved and he is finally back to work.
    Thanks for posting your story brought tears to my eyes.
    Shannon C

  3. OMG> that I am blubbering, nose running I am remembering how I used to love Christmas...going to look for a little bent tree at my local Walmart today....


  4. Inspiring post, it's so easy to take our blessings for granted. I live on a very limited income (for the Western world) - I'm a pensioner - but don't go without any basic home comforts - not to mention a few luxuries. I look out of my window most days at the birds I feed in my garden and am reminded how well off I am. We don't have Walmart but if I find a tree like that anywhere, I won't ignore it.