Remo drove me and Ziggy to look for a Christmas tree. We ended up at some farm where Remo did all the talking. Once the tree was tied to the roof, we got back in the car and Remo was chuckling.
“What’s so funny?” I had to ask.
“That guy thought you were my kids. He wanted to know if you were home from school, which would explain your haircuts.”
“This is going to sound funny, but I really did not realize our haircuts were so… out there. I mean, it’s the nineties, for pete’s sake. The Beatles were criticized for growing their hair in the sixties.” I ran my fingers through mine. “And it’s not like coloring hasn’t been around since at least the seventies.”
“The farther you go from New York or LA, it’s like you go backward in time,” Remo said. “And not just with haircuts.”
Ziggy snickered. “I understand Daron being mistaken for your son. But me?”
“To a Tennessee farmer you two look alike, I guess,” Remo said. “What’s your background, again, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Depends on the day of the week,” Ziggy said with a toothy grin.
We went from the tree farm to Sears, which was open until nine. The air was crisp and chilly and while walking across the somewhat dark parking lot toward the brightly lit front entrance of the store I had a powerful sort of flashback to my childhood. Something about it triggered the feeling of Christmas as strongly as any carol. Despite all the drama associated with my family, it was a good feeling. A feeling of anticipation and child-like wonder.
Yeah, from a chilly Sears parking lot.
Maybe that explains why we bought so many ornaments, though. Tinsel and garland, lights, several boxes of ornaments, and a tree topper. We debated which tree topper for a while. Star or angel? I was pretty sure either one would be fine, which was why both were on sale, and there was also one that appeared to be a giant snowflake and one that seemed to be Father Christmas. In the end we went for a frosted glass star that you could put the lights at the end of a string into.
By the time we got to the house, Landon was asleep, and apparently so was Claire. Janine came to the door in her robe and slippers. “It’s almost ten,” she said.
“We’ll be quiet,” Remo promised.
So the three of us set up the tree in a stand with water in it, and put on the lights and the garland, and left it lit up but without any of the ornaments on. Those we left in their boxes stacked up on the coffee table.
And then we went to Denny’s for a late dinner.
“Did you talk to Barrett or Carynne today?” Remo asked while we were waiting for our food to come.
“No, never had the chance,” I said.
“Don’t you have a lot going on?”
“Hush,” Ziggy said. “They know where to find us if they need us.”
“I should try to call Sarah again, though,” I said. “Tomorrow maybe. But you know who I did talk to.”
“Mel. She called and got connected to our room instead of yours.”
Remo looked surprised. “She didn’t call me. I mean, I talked to her from the truck stop but that was it.”
“Huh, you think she actually intended to call me but was acting like she got me by mistake?”
“More likely she changed her mind about talking to me or something came up,” Remo said. But he looked troubled as he stared at the dark surface of his decaf.
“You better be with her and Ford on Christmas,” I found myself saying suddenly.
“When it comes to family obligations, there aren’t many higher than that. For fuck’s sake, Remo, it’s Ford’s first Christmas. Are you really going to miss it? What are you going to tell him when he grows up and asks why you’re not in any of the pictures?” I barreled ahead before he could answer. “That there was something more important? How on Earth can Claire be more important than him?”
Remo cradled his mug in his large hands. “You’re right.”
“Even my mother at her most insecure, at her most narcissist, really can’t dispute that. You should be with your wife and son for the holiday. Tell her now, though.”
“I confess I was thinking about trying to fly out on Christmas eve so I can be there on Christmas morning…”
“And why haven’t you bought the plane ticket yet?”
He took a sip of the coffee and grimaced as if it were bitter. “Because I’m not sure Mel wants me there, now.”
“Oh, fuck that,” Ziggy said. “All the more reason to get your ass there.”
“She told me today that Ford misses his Daddy.”
“I think Ford is too young to know–”
“Bullshit,” Ziggy said. “Babies imprint on both parents. Not just their mothers. When they have them, that is.” He ran his fingers through his forelock, where the blue had faded out and left a mostly blond streak. “Don’t spend enough time with him and he’ll end up like me.” He smirked.
“An international singing sensation?” I asked wryly.
“No,” Ziggy said, harking back to the tree farmer. “A weirdo from an East Coast college town.”