The first Christmas after his mom had died, Kurt’s dad forgot everything…everything. Well, he did manage to take Kurt to the Nutcracker, but that wasn’t even in December that year, so Kurt didn’t think it really counted (especially since it was what his dad had bribed him with to get him to agree to go to Aunt Mildred’s-Dad’s sister Mildred, not Dad’s Aunt Mildred- for Thanksgiving). There was no non-stop Christmas songs played in the house, there was no cookie baking, and there was not a single bit of greenery to be found at the house. Dad forgot Kurt’s school’s Christmas Program (luckily, Kurt made it, due to just not coming home from school. Jessica, the girl who stood next to him while they sang, talked her mother into giving Kurt a ride to the garage after the afterschool program was finished. His dad hadn’t even noticed he was late.) Santa left IOUs and they got the tree Christmas Eve after Kurt had taken to trying to hang one of his mom’s old perfume bottles in the window.
The only things Kurt had managed to put right was the tall candle in the old fashioned carry type candle stick from the china cabinet in the dining room placed in the window to light the way home for those gone away, which Kurt lit every night for ten minutes before putting it out so his dad would not catch him playing with fire and the string of small white light’s he’d draped around his bedframe, a single lone strand he’d found in the upstairs closet that must have somehow missed the Christmas bin last year. When Christmas was over, Kurt took that strand of lights and put them into the shoe box of the saddle shoes his dad had let him buy out of the girl’s section. He slid the box under his bed, just in case. He returned the candle to the china cabinet, and vowed to find one of those that looked like a candle but was fake for the next year, so it could stay lit all the time like it was supposed to….or at least more tall white candles so he could burn them longer.
By the next Christmastime, things had gotten a bit better. His dad was more there most the time, more aware of Kurt and what he needed…and yes, that had taken the biggest most undignified tantrum Kurt had ever thrown to accomplish. Kurt had learned that if he left lists of things that needed to be done that day taped to the milk first thing in the morning, his dad usually managed. Kurt had read a book at school where the kids did a daily advent activity and so Kurt implemented that. Taped to the milk in the list of daily to-dos was something for Christmas each day of December. They made it to the Nutcracker, without the trip having to be a bribe (because they ate out for Thanksgiving dinner, at the all night diner in Findley and were nowhere near Aunt Mildred). Dad made it to Kurt’s school play, they watched a Christmas movie Kurt picked out and one his Dad picked out, Christmas music played in the house, and his dad even found them a music concert to go to which wasn’t at a church. They had a tree, they decorated the front door with a wreath with a big green and red plaid bow, and his dad strung lights around the windows and doorframe. They even baked cookies (granted they were the ones that came from the refrigerator section at the grocery store in a tube, but Kurt figured they might be able to manage that…he still was recovering from the dreaded Tuna casserole attempt of mid-November, and September’s Chili Fiasco, and the stove top fire of July from his dad attempting oil fry fish, and blown-up microwave disaster of May, and the myriad of other culinary disasters that occurred when his dad entered the kitchen) and managed a Christmas ham and baked potatoes for Christmas dinner. His dad took him shopping and they found a light for the window, a fake candle which could always be lit…and the base looked like the base of the candlestick in the china cabinet. His dad bought him a new Christmas book, and read to him from the old one his mom had read to him from before. They made Christmas cards and even did a Christmas craft together (They turned candy canes into reindeer with pipe cleaners and googly eyes, but hey.).
Kurt doesn’t think his dad ever noticed the string of lights which he draped over his mother’s vanity, which his dad had moved into his room on the anniversary of her death. Kurt left them there, along with a small red bow he’d swiped from the box of ornaments his dad had brought out that year (he and his mother had worn them in their hair as they decorated the tree every year he could remember) and a smaller perfume bottle of hers than the one he’d turned into an ornament that first year that he’d found a purple ribbon to hang it by (it wasn’t his favorite of the scents she wore, the dresser in his dad’s room smelled of that, but it was the scent she wore when they baked and delivered treats to people) and two of the ribbon stars he and his mother had made the Christmas before she died (They forgot to put paper on the table and had to scrape hot glue drops off the table before his dad saw…they’d even glued one to the table). And if his dad ever did notice, he never asked. He never noticed (or maybe just never asked) when Kurt added the tiny pair of mitten his mother had strung together for Kurt’s first Christmas from a pair of mittens Kurt had worn when he was a newborn, or when he swiped several of the jingle bells his mother had hung by bright yellow and orange and teal ribbons his second Christmas, to alert her to toddler Kurt trying to get into the tree. His dad never noticed the disappearance of the tiny ballerina in the red tutu that his mom had bought him when he was three to commemorate his first year in dance, even though they told his dad it had been his mom’s choice of ornament and that Kurt’s had been the wooden duck (which Kurt also had liberated for his vanity), nor that the tiny surfboard(his six year old self was obsessed with surf movies and his mom always let him surf on the arm of the couch as he watched them), the Eiffel tower( the year of kindergarten at home, in French) and the little tiara (he won the very top title at the biggest pageant in Ohio the year he was four, a first for a boy at it…and he’d won the best talent and photogenic titles as well )had gone missing from the Christmas ornament box. Kurt added to his collection over the years, other little things that only meant something to him in connection to his mom, a tea cup and a floppy Victorian hat, a guitar like Maria’s from the sound of music and a little brown package tied up with string, Clara and the nutcracker, drama and tragedy masks and brass music notes. And he added lights…small white ones. He added strings to his headboard and foot board, he lined the edges of his dresser with them. He rarely plugged them in, but on bad days…lonely days…days he is just tired and done and it hurts to breath (mentally, emotionally and sometimes even physically)… he plugs in the lights.
And he remembers that first year…and not much seems to hurt as bad as that. He touches each ornament, and says the memory of it out loud and draws strength from his mom and her love for him. Then he closes his eyes till all that he notices is the twinkling lights against his eyelids…until he can open his eyes again and face the world.