A Matthew Page Story
"2020/2021"Dec 14, 2020 - By Matthew Page
For Tyler, as for many, 2020 had not been a banner year.
His restaurant struggled to remain open, and the mounting bills on the kitchen table hinted that even if he managed to keep the lights on, it would be some time before his ledger wasn’t red.
A separation from his wife in the summer, partly the restaurant’s fault but mostly his own, meant that he would not see his girls on Christmas morning.
And now, COVID.
Tyler was in the midst of putting up his Christmas decorations when he felt his chest tighten. He retreated into his house to catch his breath but a few hours later he was in the emergency room. A month later, labeled a resolved case, Tyler still suffered from the effects of COVID, which left him tired, breathless, and weak.
His decorations remained unfinished and half hazard, including the beautiful conifer at the Bourbon Street entrance of Owl Park. While it was a city tree, Tyler took it upon himself to decorate it. It was his flagship. And now, with only days until Christmas, it was barren.
He kept it simple. Each year he would buy and hang new balls and garland on the tree, top it with a sparkling star, and light the tree with spotlights. With the decorations and a light dusting of snow, Tyler thought the tree was perfect. Neighbours and visitors to the park would often stop to comment and take pictures with Tyler’s tree.
2020 would take that from him too.
Tyler looked out on his naked tree, as a few snowflakes drifted past his window. From Mina Lane, Tyler noticed a figure approaching, bundled up and cradling something in their mitts. He watched, intrigued, as the figure approached his tree and carefully hung a homemade Santa Claus ornament on the highest branch they could reach. Once placed, they stepped back to admire their work; from his window, so did Tyler.
Caught up in the moment, Tyler didn’t immediately notice the others. From all directions, figures cut through the thickening flurry, each carrying an ornament to place on the tree. He saw some snowsuits and toques he recognized, and many he did not. After forty, Tyler lost count.
The figures slipped back into the snow storm and, as quietly as they came, they were gone. Tyler was left alone with his now decorated tree (well, at least the bottom two-thirds), his thoughts, and his tears.
For the first time, Tyler thought maybe 2021 would be better.