By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
Jay Bell, my good friend from “Bradenton-Fun-in-the-Sun-Baby-Florida,” got wrapped in the Christmas spirit and coated with pine sap.
The pine sap came first.
“I keep finding more of that black crud,” he said.
While watching the local news, he heard that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Paradise needed help at a Christmas tree lot. Jay volunteered to work from 3 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“They said they had gloves I could use,” he said, “but of course, I brought my own. I was prepared.”
When he got to the lot, he met the “executive vice grand poobah” for the Boys & Girls Clubs.
“He’d been there the whole time,” Jay said, “and he was definitely tired of selling trees.”
It was a rare rainy day in paradise, so Jay and the poobah huddled under a small shelter with a young man who was performing community service hours for a crime Jay didn’t specify.
They sold a total of four trees on that rainy Tuesday, and Jay made a vow to himself to reach double digits before he left the lot on Wednesday.
On that day, another young man with community service hours joined the crew. Jay didn’t judge because he’s had his indiscretions over the years that we won’t discuss here.
“These guys were how I was over 20 years ago, and I’m sitting with them at 44,” he said. “It was like revisiting myself.”
They sold nine trees during Jay’s two days on the lot, and he had about 10 minutes left, when a man came in with his 8-year-old daughter.
“A beautiful girl,” Jay said.
The man asked if there were any special deals to be had, and spent most of his time looking at the “Charlie Brown” trees on the lot. He eventually picked a $50 tree, and the poobah gave him $10 off.
“He said he’d just been laid off at Christmastime. It was sad, looking at that girl,” Jay said. “We loaded the tree for him, and I said something about Santa visiting the girl. I got to thinking, you know, if he’s sweating a $50 Christmas tree, what’s going to end up under the tree for her? Not much.”
It was a monumental two days for the Jaybird. He spent quality time with a pair of younger selves; he helped out the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Paradise; and the realities of life stabbed him in the heart.
“Don’t forget the pine sap,” he said. “I’m still washing that stuff off.”
The experience created another item for Jay’s to-do list: He’s going shopping for Toys for Tots, and I’d expect every purchase will be perfect for an 8-year-old girl.
“Maybe some of those toys will end up under her ‘Charlie Brown’ tree,” Jay said. “I’d like to think that, anyway.”
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.