It’s christmas morning, 7am. My siblings and I, gittering with excitement as the clock’s hand strikes
the precarious angle. A permitence to wake our parents, to rush our tiny hands over the colorful
paper tearing away the anticipation
The frenzied scavenge commenced
The excitement of “things”,
What I imagine to be like flying,
a momentous bound from a mountainside, an abrupt spike of energy.
A cheerful delight followed closely by an elusive and gradual descent.
We coast easily through time, the animation naturally digressing, returning to the ignorance from
which it sprung.
I don’t remember what was in those packages.
What I do remember is the scene just before, the doorbell ringing between my brother and sister’s
shrieks, the front door flinging open, like clockwork, by impatient youthful hands
belonging to a figure too small to be seen through the peephole.
The giddy grin, disproportionate to the tiny frame on which it’s worn.
The neighbor boy bouncing through our threshold, eyes ablaze with excitement and curiosity.
Charged from his own festival of “things”. Eager to share, itching to partake in the unwrapping of our
Why can I not remember?
A decade has passed, since that moment, maybe more. Years, like lifetimes, inserting themselves
between us and those “things”. The time chipping at that pile of boxes. Their contents long since
packed away, outgrown, donated, lost, forgotten.
Replaced by new things.
Arificats of our growth, accumulated and scattered about
like breadcrumbs behind us on the diverging paths we’ve walked.
I think to myself,
As the ringing of the christmas morning doorbell fades back into the phone beside me,
The face of my twelve year old neighbor dissolving against my inbox
filling with desperate inquisitions as our neighborhood emboldens the headlines
It’s now 2am, late september,
I am holding my breath, trying desperately to recall the “things” packed away inside that house the
same things my neighbor was so eager to investigate
The same forgotten packages, now encircled by flames
The decimation closing in, lapping at the landscape of my youth,
the world in which that bright eyed boy lives on is now darkened by an ashen sky
Obscuring our pasts
My mind’s eye is strained against the blazing images,
my concentration in peril to the remembrance of those “things”, of which, any moment now,
may be gone forever
Afraid of its assertion
As the combustion threatens to insert itself between me and my identity,
Stealing away the artifacts that tie me to my roots
And somehow, with them, destroying the vector where I formed my most primitive perceptions of the world,
Of love and friendship and community
What I do not see is that same christmas moment resonating in my neighbor’s now adult eyes,
dancing in the reflection of the flames
Elements that remain untouchable in the reigns of destruction,
Gifts that thrive in the peril of our “things”
I wonder in this moment, if he remembers what was in those shiny packages,
The original “things” that began the inevitable turnover
For time has taken to replace his “things” too,
Growing with the years, each christmas morning met with change,
Accumulating bigger and brighter packages;
His new bike and Nintendo 64 replaced by ownership of his parents house,
a Cal Fire badge on his chest
What I do not see within the closing ring is the three lone figures,
My neighbor in the lead,
pillars of resilience
armed with vindication, unabated by doubt, pity, or chaos
Maybe time has taken our “things”
Maybe it always will
But what are our “things” tied to?
Casts of moments,
like a goofy 12 year old boy on christmas morning before the approved 7am.
What I do not see is my neighbor pioneering the etching of yet a new memory into my being,
Fighting for our “things”
A gallant savior –“Things” singed or untouched–
Of community, selflessness and love
That which the flames could never reach