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To Find Your Peace

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Kurt should have known something was up the day after Thanksgiving...but he had believed his dad when he’d said that they were going to blend family traditions for holidays just like they’d blended families and no single family was going to be given precedence.  They all insisted…well his dad and Carole…that the first Thanksgiving wasn’t going to count at all because it was all about introducing families to each other for a longer period of time than the wedding and just making sure no one killed anyone else.  Therefore no one’s traditions were being used.

However…he should have realized something was up when he asked his dad what time to be home from shopping so they could put up the outdoor lights and his dad had answered he didn’t need to worry about it, especially since his dad then handed over five hundred bucks and hadn’t even told Kurt to get something nice for the Mildreds and whoever else was usually on his dad’s Christmas shopping list from the mall and then to use whatever extra Kurt ended up with on something fun, like he usually did if he gave Kurt money for Black Friday shopping.  (Kurt did his dad’s shopping anyway; he even bought a few base gifts for Carole and Finn. It hadn’t been worth it…although his dad approved of the gifts he’d picked, he complained the whole time that now he had to find somewhere to hide them all until Christmas, because apparently Finn was a snooper, go figure.  Kurt ended up needing to wrap everything up and take everything with him to school. And since he had the stuff at school he had to spend the money to send off the gifts to everyone on his dad’s list who was out of town and had to finish up shopping for the guys his dad worked for since his dad couldn’t remember what Kurt had already bought and his dad didn’t send extra money for any of that.)

 His second clue that something was amiss should have been that he distinctly remembered Puck talking about the Hudson’s house being all light up by Thanksgiving time every year.  So, if they were combining traditions, shouldn’t putting up lights outside the day after thanksgiving have been within the realms of combining tradition?

But he didn’t notice anything was off and he trusted his dad, and so his requests to hang lights were put off for the rest of the weekend and then it was Monday and he was back off to Dalton and he was well aware he wasn’t getting home until school let out for break unless he was extremely lucky…which he hadn’t been.   He may not have been at Dalton for long, but he still had to take finals with the rest of the bunch.  Kurt figured he’d averaged about three hours of sleep a night from the time he got back from Thanksgiving to the last of day  finals…the 16th… which was the last day of regular classes, although he wasn’t allowed to go home until the 22nd, unless his parent came and checked him out…which he hadn’t. His parent hadn’t even shown up for the Dalton Parent’s day on the 17th, let alone checked him out early.  That was embarrassing.  He still has no idea if anyone bought his emergency at the shop story.

 Kurt had had a miserable December.  No one helped brighten it at all. (Blaine might have brightened it briefly with the song they sang together; however he promptly went on to dis Kurt’s festive accessories and tell him to stop singing Christmas carols in the halls, so no…) There was no advent of daily activities.  And although his dad did make it to the Nutcracker to see it with him, like he’d promised right after his heart attack, he missed half of it because a ball game he was watching with Finn went into overtime. It wasn’t even a game that involved either of the two’s favorite teams. And Burt left immediately afterwards because Carole wanted Burt to go out to eat with her and had made reservations for them and Burt didn’t want her upset if he didn’t make it. Kurt was given house demerit points for his string of lights and the electric candle in his window and the holly and ivy garland he’d hung in his room (and for the sprig of Holly he attached to his uniform and the hot chocolate maker he had in his room.)  The only one who appreciated the card he’d given them was Jeff, at least as far as he could tell.  He even got in trouble for baking, because he was distracting too many boys from their studying. And he found out the last day of class that he probably couldn’t board the next semester unless they could fork over at least another three thousand bucks on top of tuition….which they’d only managed to pay for the quarter, not the full semester…by the end of December (and that wasn’t even the full boarding amount, since they hadn’t been informed they needed to fill out paperwork to keep Kurt’s emergency student status past the end of the semester). (Apparently the Headmaster had emailed his father about it early in December, but his dad hadn’t responded at all.) Kurt had packed everything in his dorm room that he wasn’t using and moved it to his SUV that night.  There was no way they could come up with that much on top of tuition in less than two weeks, not In December. Then he got reprimanded for watching unapproved videos over the weekend after most the other boys had left, expect those staying the whole vacation period. The last few days were spent working off his demerit points by cleaning classrooms for teachers who were as unhappy to still be at the school as he was.  He was looking forward to going home and putting up the Christmas tree and relaxing by a fire in the fireplace while he sipped hot chocolate.  He was going to play Christmas Music and sing to it as loud as he wanted and watch Christmas Movies, maybe even all night long!  He was finally freed to head home at what would have been then end of the school day of the 22nd.  Kurt finished packing the SUV with the rest of his stuff and left Dalton. It was past 4pm when he finally got out of there.

It snowed the whole drive home -blizzard conditions- so the two hour drive took nearly twice as long. He’d nearly been run off the road three times and each time he later saw the idiot drivers in the ditch.  He’d been stuck as emergency vehicles struggled to get through for twenty minutes behind a deasil truck which wasn’t burning its fuel properly. His head hurt and he was cold and tense. By the time Kurt pulled onto the street the house was on all he wanted was to go home and hopefully be able to get things together for Christmas with some semblance of sanity surviving to maybe even enjoy something about the season.  He figured the outside lights would be up, but he looked forward to decorating inside. Surely his dad had left the garlands for him to do and the tree for him to help with. He dreamed all the way home of putting the garland up the banisters on the stair cases, and over the mantle of the fireplace.  He thought about what cute things they could do with a wreath for the front door, because surely Carole and Finn would enjoy one and so his dad would finally allow one.  Maybe his dad would even agree to a garland along the tops of the china cabinets and the bookshelves this year.  Kurt had been trying for years (since the year after his mom died) to get his dad to agree to more than just the tree and a garland on the fire place mantle, finally winning the banisters when he was 14.  His dad always said that more than that was just not necessary, a waste of money, and too much in a tasteless manner, not a good one.   Kurt had found some plaid ribbon though, and some woodland critters which would be sedate and not too loud, so maybe that could convince his dad.  He thought about what ornaments needed to be on the tree, and which could be left off so Finn and Carole could have space for theirs.  He wondered what stories he’d learn as they put up the tree and talked about what the ornaments meant or when they were bought or made.

 He was debating inside his head whether or not to include the Elvis Bear on the tree when he realized he’d driven past his house…because that monstrosity of tasteless inflatables and obnoxious outdoor illumination could not possibly be his house.  His dad wouldn’t even allow Kurt to string lights around the small pine in the front yard or exchange the regular walkway lights for candy canes or Christmas shaped lights.  The inflatables up in their yard weren’t even tasteful inflatables.  There was Sponge Bob and Simpsons and Mario and Mr.Potato Head inflatables…and was that Santa in an outhouse with half his rear end showing?   There was a Santa in a hot tub…and a Santa waving from a camper…and some sort of superhero group.   On the top of the house were wooden Reindeer cutouts, lit up and a fake chimney with Santa’s butt showing…again…lit up so no one could miss it.  The house was dripping with lights, in no orderly fashion what so ever…lights of multi colored lights went into white blinking lights or icicle lights then back to colored, no pattern or  reason to them. The colored lights didn’t match each other and even the white lights didn’t match each other. There were even pink and turquoise lights and purple lights.  There were lit stars and snowflakes, which Kurt would have liked had they been hanging from the eves like they were meant to be and not attached to the side of the house, literally…to the siding...at least a foot under the window sills. Everything was covered in lights, but not well…light nets weren’t put on correctly and left huge sections blank, only half of things were strung with lights, or if the full item was cover, it wasn’t covered with anything that matched. There were dozens of animatronic lit critters…bears, deer, reindeer, penguins…that didn’t match...as some were again colored and some were white (different whites as well), and dozens of those spiral trees his father had forbidden Kurt from having (Kurt had wanted two… a tall one and a shorter one.)…several of which actually clashed with each other even though they sat right next to each other. There were large plastic candy canes and plastic choir boys and plastic carolers and plastic Santas and plastics elves and plastic snowmen and plastic candles and Kurt though he might even see plastic aliens in the yard, and possibly a plastic camel. They were scattered throughout the yard like someone had shaken a dice cup and let loose.    The walkways to the house were lined with Red and Green and blue and white and orange and black rope lights, in no manner that made any sense.   Kurt pulled into the drive way and stared.

When he opened the car door, he was blasted with four different Christmas songs being piped out from somewhere in the mess.  The cacophony was nearly painful.  Kurt wasn’t even allowed to play Christmas Music loud enough to be heard throughout the house, let alone outside it.

Kurt sat in his SUV and stared.  The front porch not only had a wreath on the front door, one of those huge ones made of garishly colored mesh…it was bright pink and lime green and teal for goodness sake and the only thing that made it look Christmas like was that it was covered in glass balls of the same garish colors…but it had wreathes on both the pillars of the porch and they didn’t match.  One was a huge evergreen wreath that would have been lovely without the batman themed ribbon and decorations and the other was made of the type of bows you buy in bulk to put on presents, with the sticky square backs, in the worst color assortment ever.

Strands of gold, silver, green and red tinsel garlands hung on each side of the door…just hung down, the slight breeze was making them sway to and fro.  Across the top of the door was a baby blue fake pine garland trimmed with pink lights. The blue of the garland clashed with the teal of the wreath, let alone everything hanging to the sides of the door.  The porch was littered with wood cutouts that were poorly painted.  One of the elves looked positively demonic and seemed to have pointed buck teeth painted on it.

Even the normal tasteful sconces that generally served as the covers to the porch lights had been replaced by hideous Santa faces from which the glow of the porch lights made Santa look like his eyes were glowing.

Kurt took a deep breath; grabbed two suitcases filled with his stuff from Dalton in them, and braved the front door.  The moment he stepped on the porch a new set of Christmas Music blasted through speakers.  It didn’t mesh with any of the other blaring songs at all. He scrunched up his face and plotted the closest way to the nearest pain meds to ease his head ache and then the fastest way to his bedroom. Then he opened the door.

It looked like a five year old had hung streamers for a birthday party, except with tacky tinsel garlands and crepe paper in every color sold.  There was no pattern to the mess, just tinsel garland and crepe paper tacked into the ceiling, hanging down too far, criss-crossing willy nilly and clashing often.  The entry way walls were plastered in holiday pictures and cutouts and even window clings that had been taped to the wall with packing tape. There were tacky singing fish wearing Santa and Elf hats that sang as you walked in the door.  Somewhere else in the room other singing things started up, one that were noise activated. Christmas music blasted through the house, loud and annoying.

There was nowhere to hang his coat or put his shoes because the coat rack and shoe cubbies were filled with horrid Christmas sweaters hung where they could be seen and bins of pine cones and wooden blocks painted like gifts…poorly painted….and the most horrid mixed colors of…plastic balls…and sticks? Ribbon bows were tied to everything they could be tied to, often with jingle bells hanging from them…but there wasn’t any cohesive color scheme.  There were purple and pink and red and green and lilac and neon yellow and lime green and orange and brown and black and a red that was either brick or blood bows scattered throughout the entryway and hall.  The floor itself was covered in Christmas themed welcome mats….dozens laid out on the floor in an odd type of runner.  The entry ways to the living room and dining room were framed by stringy tinsel like the front door, which seemed to reach out to him as he walked by due to the mass amount of static generated by the sheer amount of tinsel. 

He walked by the arched opening to the dining room first and looked in.  And immediately wished he hadn’t.  There were four Christmas trees on the dining room table.  They weren’t small, really, each was about three feet to three and a half feet tall.  They were mashed together due to the fact the dining room table lacked the space for them all. One was bright pink and one was lime green, the other two were pine colored, and at least one was real judging by the amount of pine needles on the table.  The pink tree was covered with cupcakes and the most hideously scary looking gingerbread ornaments and baby blue beads and ribbons and purple topical scary looking birds with huge feathered tails and flamingos and cocktail glasses and donuts and then Victorian looking lace and cones…that weren’t the same nearly neon pink as the tree and so looked bad on it. The lights were bright red and blinked.

The lime green one wasn’t any better.  There were red and lime green balls and ribbons and lots of candy ornaments in various colors and patterns, shoved in with feathery birds in extremely bright pinks and teals and purples and yellows and oranges, neon colored swim suits and goggles and snorkels and swim fins, and loads of very bright fake extremely glittered citrus fruit.  The birds didn’t even match the other tree.  The tree was topped with peacock feathers….the colors of which matched maybe one freaking feathered bird.  The lime green tree’s lights were bright pink and chased through some strangely timed pattern.

The real pine tree was covered in small kitchen ware and bake ware type items, and could have been fine if not also mixed with seashells and sand dollars and beach items and a ribbon that went around it that encouraged all to have a Bloody Merry Christmas and looked like it was splattered with blood.  It also had bright red lights, a shade darker and adding to the blood feel.

The final tree was completely stuffed with religious ornaments.  He’d been to Aunt Mildred’s during Christmas season.  Aunt Mildred was very…evangelical. She once did a Jesse tree and Nativity tree. Everything was wrapped in Jesus Loves You paper and Jesus is the Reason for the Season paper.  It only lasted a few years, but Kurt was there for them. He thought it more tasteless than not even back then, but now he was thinking his Aunt Mildred did it tastefully.  The first problem was that it was just packed so full and nothing matched.  The bright crayon colored circles proclaiming Jesus’s love and purpose would have been fine, alone or with the white nativity pieces.  They didn’t look good with the neon stars that had different names of Christ or the nativity pieces that looked like they belonged in a circus (which were horrid anyway).  The Jesse ornaments on it were just…not tastefully done. Perhaps if they had just been white ceramic they would have been fine, but these were white ceramic that had been poorly gold leafed…which made them tacky to start off with even if the gold leaf had been applied well. To top it all of…there were close to a dozen Christ on a Cross ornaments that had I’m Saved written on them…across Jesus’s chest.  The lights on this tree were neon colored…pink, green, yellow, blue…and flashed at such a high speed Kurt was worried for people visiting.  His house now needed seizure warnings inside as well as out.

Kurt closed his eyes, hoping again that upon opening them his dining room would look normal.

It didn’t.

Having taken in the Christmas Trees on the table, he saw everything else.  The table had runners on it under the trees…over a hideous Christmas table cloth.  Runners…plural. None matched the ugly elf table cloth…some of which looked demonic…and none matched each other.  The chairs were dressed up in those stupid slip covers that only looks good done well…and at things like weddings.  These weren’t done well and didn’t match at all. The stupid reindeer chair cover had antlers that Kurt assumed were supposed to stick up but which flopped backwards, the snowman looked half melted and like something out of a horror film and the less said about the two Santas, the better.  Suffice to say, they clashed with each other and if Kurt never saw another Santa again, he’d be happy. The thought of a Santa looking like either was enough to keep Kurt from even wanting Santa gifts at all….no Santa gift means Santa didn’t come to his house.  He couldn’t understand why anyone would buy them…and since they all had tags that were sticking out, someone had.

The walls were plastered with Christmas Prints…that again didn’t match or make sense together. The tacky Tinsel garlands criss-crossed the ceiling in the dining room as well, shedding down onto the floor and all over the table.

Kurt was terrified to look at the rest of the house.  And depressed. Utterly depressed.   He couldn’t believe he dad had told HIM no all these years and then let THIS happen. Unless maybe the reason his dad hadn’t answered anything was because they’d killed him…or tied him up somewhere.

He turned and walked further down the hall, pausing to look into the living.  And concluding his thought that they had actually killed his dad and stuffed the body somewhere wasn’t as unlikely as it seemed.

The tree was in the middle of the room.  The TV was blocked. The tree touched the ceiling and was quite wide as well.  It was real, Kurt could tell by the mass amount of pine needles on the floor. And it was heavily flocked.  The white powder stuff sat on many of the branches in piles. It was flocked so badly Kurt could see flocking on the furniture and when the heater kicked on the air movement made flocking dust float into the air.  It was also covered in silver tinsel strands….the individual ones that got EVERYWHERE. And Kurt meant covered…every branch was draped with strands at least five inches in, it looked like it was melting.  The air lifted those as well, and made them sway on the tree in a very nauseating manner. The only things on the tree were huge fake poinsettia flowers in every color imaginable and so heavily glittered the glitter they shed could be seen on every surface and the type of feathers that really only worked on Pirate hats, Victorian hats, and as pens at weddings, also dipped in glitter.  The lights were all chasers, set on super speed, and the strands did not match…not bulb shape or color.

There were about twenty stockings hung on the mantle, all with Finn’s name on them…except two, labeled MOM and DAD. And they were all tacky…and huge.  There were piles of gifts under the tree, most quite large and all, even from afar, clearly labeled FINN. Kurt was strongly reminded of Harry Potter and Dudley Dursley.  There were hundreds of animated stuffed things in the room and so many throw pillows that one couldn’t actually sit in a chair anyway. And none matched.  The shelves were overflowing with Christmas items stuffed on them…most ugly or just odd.  His tasteful nativity wasn’t up anywhere in the room, nor were his candles or the angels they always had out.  Even his dad’s display of antique toys wasn’t to be seen. Those had been put up at Christmas time in his dad’s family since his dad was four and his dad’s great-grandmother had given them to him to display for Christmas.

Kurt clenched his jaw and walked to the door to the basement.  There was so much static that a bolt of electricity shot four inches to zap him from the handle.

Kurt closed his eyes and hoped that wasn’t an omen.  He wondered where his dad was…or Carole or Finn for that matter.

Christmas music different than what was playing on the main floor blasted from down stairs. There were tinsel garlands hanging off the ceiling and handrail. And there were stands of jingle bells hanging down from the hand rail as well, so every step jingled.

“I told you I’m not going to some stupid party at the Fire Department. I refuse!” Finn shouted.

Kurt could hear the sounds from his video games blasting loudly enough to be heard over the Christmas Music.

Kurt stopped at the bottom of the stairs.

Nothing in the basement was as he left it.  In fact nothing of his seemed to be there at all.

“Where’s my stuff?” Kurt asked.

“Why are you here?” Finn yelled back. “I’m calling your dad! I’m telling!”

“Ok.  Where’s my stuff?”

“We got rid of it.  Except from the closet, because it was locked and Burt wouldn’t let us break in. I wanted to just throw it all out because you know…you don’t live here…but Burt made us keep it all so mom rented a storage unit and we put it all there.  She’s trying to convince Burt that it doesn’t belong here at all anymore and we need access to the closet too.”

“Of course I live here.”

“No you don’t, your dad moved you to the school and so you live there and don’t return.”

“Do neither of you understand how boarding schools work?  Not to mention, I only was boarding because of my work load the last several weeks.  I’m all caught up now and unless your mom is forking over 10,000 bucks, I won’t be boarding.”

“You can’t live here. Mom promised it was all mine now.  Even if your dad wouldn’t let me have the stuff of yours I want, she is supposed to make him give it to me by Christmas…so you can’t be here and you have to give me all your good stuff…like your computer and TV and shit.  Mom promised. I’m calling Mom! I’m telling Burt….I’m telling him right now, how you are sneaking in here and harassing me! I will.”

“So, Dad and your mother are at the party at the fire department?” Kurt asked, glaring at Finn.

“Probably.  It sounded dumb. I don’t see why I should go and help out stupid little kids. No, go back where you came from.”

Kurt turned and marched back up the stairs. Not without noticing that there was five Christmas trees filled with various forms of sports paraphernalia and hunting stuff scattered around the basement, all live and half nearly bare due to the lack of needles, which littered the floor and all bone dry. The floor was also covered with dirty clothes and towels, food in various forms of rot and empty food boxes, empty soda cans and… empty beer and wine bottles… and other smelly things.

He marched out past the horrid decorations to his SUV.  He put his suitcases back into the vehicle and drove to the fire station.  He got out and stomped into the party…over to the adult games area, which his father was usually in charge of.  Carole wasn’t there.  Fire Chief Michaels was though.

“Burt Hummel.” Kurt snapped.

Burt dropped the bowling ball he was retrieving to hand to the next person playing Bowling For Pop.

“Kurt…when did you get home?” Burt asked.

“Today.  AFTER YOU DID NOT COME GET ME ON THE 17TH WHEN YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE THERE FOR PARENT’S DAY! I spent the days from the 17th to leaving time today working off demerit points for you missing it.  Furthermore you have NOT answered any email or message left, or answered any calls from me and NOW you will be very sorry. I will not be able to board next semester. Because YOU couldn’t be bothered. I hope you have fun explaining that to your wife  and new son, who shall be calling because I harassed him apparently by a) coming home and b) asking where all MY STUFF IS!”

Chief Michaels looked at Burt. “You forgot to go to Parent’s day at your kid’s school and forgot to check him out?”

“You got rid of all YOUR child’s stuff? Like what kind of stuff are we talking here?” Deputy Jones from the police department asked.

“All of it that I hadn’t locked in my closet.  I have no bed, no dresser, my mother’s old vanity is gone, my TV and computer are missing, my sewing machine and everything!” Kurt said.

“I thought they left things be down there.  Carole said she set Finn straight when he demanded the room cleared for his use.” Burt said.

“Yeah, well apparently not. Finn says they put it in a storage unit after you wouldn’t let them throw it out!” Kurt snapped. “Fix this! Fix this now, Dad.  If it is NOT fixed by tomorrow, I will call YOUR Aunt Mildred. And fix the atrocity that our house has become. I am not kidding.  I am taking photos, I am sending them to Aunt Mildred…I am sending them to Uncle Lou.”

“But Kurt, you don’t understand…”

“What?  What don’t I understand?”

“Don’t you want Finn and Carole to be happy and feel welcome?” Burt asked.

“Finn and Carole can be happy and feel welcome without turning the house into a monstrosity and creating the biggest FIRE HAZAARD IN LIMA!  Not to mention the biohazard that is now the basement! Things spark in there due to the static. And I’m surprised you have been fined due to violation of  any number of city ordinances…you know, the ones you always quoted to me when I asked for more lights that the strands along the roof.”

“But Carole said they always decorate big.” Burt said. “She said she would be crushed if she couldn’t decorate as much as she dreamed and that if she couldn’t decorate properly then she’d have to go to her folks were it was decorated like she liked for the holidays.”

“And you bought that?” Kurt asked.

“She cried Kurt.  She cried when I told her just one tree.”

“Yeah…I’m sure she did.  I think you should check the accounting.  I bet most is brand new.  Except those horrid and tacky stockings…where is mine by the way?”

“Well. It upset Finn to have it, you know.  And your gifts from me are at the garage because Finn only wants his under the tree…I told him yours would be under the tree for Christmas.  Carole insisted she’d get him agree to it.  He screamed and stomped off when I told him that.”

Fire Chief Michaels put his arm over Kurt’s shoulder. “Come on Kurt.  I bet Santa has a treat for you, and I’ll set you up with a gift for the white elephant exchange and an ornament for the ornament exchange.  They are playing bingo by the pole and we’re supposed to start a new round of name that tune in a few minutes.  You always win at that.  We’ve got some great prizes this year, too.”

He turned to Burt. “Burt, I’m with your kid on this.  Fix it.”

“But Hal, you had a new wife. Surely you know how it is.” Burt said.

“I would have NEVER let Janice remove my kids’ stuff from our home.  It is always home to ALL of us.  And Cami had been off to college when I married Janice. Still wouldn’t let her get rid of Cami’s stuff until she’d moved into a place of her own and wasn’t living in dorms anymore.  And then we asked.  He’s your kid, Burt.  He’s not all grown-up yet, he should still matter most.”

He turned Kurt away and started walking with him towards Santa.

“So tell me about the biohazard.” The chief said.

“Oh My God. Finn is so nasty. There is rotting food in my basement! On the floor! And stinky socks and underwear and loads of trash.  I had it spotless over thanksgiving. I thoroughly cleaned it after I got home from black Friday shopping and all Finn’s cousins were finally gone….”

Kurt watched his dad as he continued telling the Chief about the disaster that the house was in.

His dad was looking confused.

As Kurt was seeing Santa, the Chief headed back towards his dad and Deputy Jones.

Santa, otherwise known as Mr. Morrison, the owner of M&S grocers and farmers market, slipped Kurt an extra gift and told him to come back over when the night was over and he might slip Kurt more. He asked if Kurt was going to the old folks’ home, his dear mother would hate to miss him this year if he wasn’t.  Kurt promised to be over the next day…minus cookies because he was certain his kitchen was not useable due to the amount of tinsel in the house.  Kurt beamed when Mr. Morrison offered use of the store’s bakery and the company of Mrs. Morrison to help bake cookies for the old folks’ home.

Mrs. Michaels set Kurt up with items for the exchanges that would be happening soon and allowed Kurt to snatch up the set of wooden birds, one of which looked just like Pavarotti, in exchange for last minute mending to the nativity costumes. When he managed not just the hole in Joseph’s side seam and the tear in the shepherd’s robe where he stepped in it as his stood up, but also sufficient enough hemming on all the angels costumes so that no one tripped on them and ripped them, she also added the set of angel ornaments he looked at.

He won a Christmas candle, an old Reader’s Digest Christmas Treasury sheet music book that was still in near mint condition even though it was dated 1950, and a word puzzle book playing name that tune, before he bowed out and let others have a chance to win.  He won four bingos and picked out some fabulous snowflake cookies cutters, a stocking filled with crafting supplies (nice color pencils and drawing pencils, watercolor pencils, blenders and erasers, paint brushes, and a cute set of watercolors), a set of little tea lights that were battery powered, and an awesome winter themed throw that was very soft.

He won a set of cards that were Scooby-doo themed in the white elephant exchange and an owl ornament in the ornament exchange.

He also called around to find someplace to stay over that night.  Jeff’s family lived near Liberty Hill Golf Club in Bellefontaine.  It wasn’t quit an hour away and his dad promised the snow had eased up and traffic would be fine.  Their road was already plowed and clear.  His mom would love to have Kurt for a day or two.  Kurt told her it would be for the night at least, and maybe tomorrow night as well, but during the day he had a few commitments in Lima he needed to attend to, namely baking for the old folks’ home and a trip to the old folks’ home. After hearing Jeff’s mom go on about how sweet he was, Kurt thought he might even have company the next day…and wondered just how many siblings Jeff had.

Kurt told them he’d be there in about an hour and half.  Then he went to find his dad again.

Burt was sitting at the table with the fire chief and Deputy Jones and Hank from the shop.

“Dad, I’m going to go stay at Jeff’s for the night.  If things aren’t somewhat fixed by tomorrow afternoon when I am finished at the old folks’ home, I will stay there tomorrow night as well.  Things will be fixed by then, as I will be at my home for Christmas. The basement will be cleaned and those trees removed, all the tinsel will be gone, the trees on the dining room table will be gone, and the tree in the living room will be removed or it had better be un- tinseled, de-flocked as much as possible, and it needs to be gone if it is too dry. Carole and Finn will be informed that they will be paying to fix the damage to the house since I know you were not stupid enough to do that. The music will not be there anymore…if any is there it will be ONE single song playing at a time.  The music in the house will be quieter and tasteful, like you always made me play it when you relented and let me play anything, and something will be done with the Santa butts that are hanging out everywhere! I will also give you until tomorrow afternoon before I call Aunt Mildred.  I’m going to stop by the house and grab a few things before heading out.  So, yes, I was back at the house if Finn calls…no I will not be harassing him.”

“You saw the tree in the bathroom?” Burt asked.

“What tree in what bathroom?” Kurt said.

“Umm nevermind.”

“Dad….what tree?”

“The main floor bathroom has a tall thin tree in it that is covered with hot tub Santas and bathtub Santas and outhouse ornaments.  They collect them.  They have them from many states and all sorts open to show them being used by everything from Santa to moose to one that even had Jesus in it.”

“Excuse me?” Kurt said. “And they had the nerve to comment on my lack of religion.”

“Finn’s vacation bible sleepaway camp sold them.”

Kurt just shook his head.

“See you tomorrow Dad.  I do love you, you know…but this is not OK.”

Kurt stopped by Santa to solidify his plans for the next day, and came away with two books he’d wanted to read and two more puzzles books and three heatable rice packs, two small scent candles, four Christmas scented lotions, and two textured washcloths…and a basket.  Jeff’s mother would get a nice little spa basket as a thank you gift for letting him invade.

Kurt hit the house on his way out of town.  He left his goodies in the car. He used his phone camera to take pictures of everything that horrified him.  He even went in the bathroom and found the Jesus in the outhouse ornament and took special care to take a photo of that.  He realized his dad hadn’t mentioned that there was also various naked Santa ornaments, with different type of hats placed so his privates wouldn’t be seen.

Several hundred photos later, Kurt decided enough was documented.   He had gone downstairs and photographed the carnage that was his basement.   Finn hadn’t even noticed as he had huge headphone on and the TV blasted enough louder than before. He was singing to something other than the Christmas song that was blaring away, so Kurt knew music was playing through his headphones as well.  It was a wonder the idiot wasn’t deaf.

Kurt grabbed the old recipe books with the cookie recipes he always took to the old folks’ home in them and the emergency sleep kit from the garage, just in case he needed a sleeping bag or something.  He stopped and bought himself fast food on the way out of town.

The snow was just slightly falling and the roads, though icy, were free of snow.  The plows had been out.  The drive was peaceful and nice.  Kurt found a public radio station that was reading The Christmas Carol over the radio.  He made great time and was to Jeff’s house within an hour.

Jeff’s house was huge.  There were lit deer in the front, looking like they were eating at the base of one tall spiral light tree and a few smaller ones…all the same bright white lights.  The house’s trim was lined with white lights, except the door, which was lined in green lights.  Several trees in the yard were lit as well, properly lit and covered by the same lights.  There was a single evergreen wreath on the front door. It had a large red bow on it.

 Kurt took a moment to put together a small overnight pack, gathering the items he’d need from his luggage and putting them into his school bag.  When he looked up again, Jeff was on his way down the front path to the drive to help him with anything.  Jeff assured Kurt he didn’t need his emergency sleep kit, but his dad would love to hear about it when they got in.  Kurt handed Jeff his bag when Jeff insisted on carrying something and carried in the gift basket for Jeff’s mom.

Jeff’s mom was as vivacious as Jeff and Jeff’s dad was delightful as well.  His mom handed a hot cup of cocoa to Kurt nearly as soon as he stepped into the foyer. 

Their Christmas tree…single… was huge as well, but it was against the wall and set off nearly in a corner of the room.  It was covered with white lights that were steady and had a ribbon that wound from the top to the bottom…red and white candy cane striped.  There were red and white balls…not glass yet because Jeff had little siblings who touched too much still…but mostly scattered tastefully about the tree were more random type ornaments that represented Jeff’s family.  Jeff found his baby’s 1st Christmas ornament and then showed Kurt all seven others…with the triplets having the same ornament in different colors.

Kurt met the triplets, who were almost four, Joanne, who was 11 months older than Jeff and James who was 11 months younger.  He found out that the other two, Kim and Karen, were significantly older than Joanne…and that Jeff’s dad was their step-dad. Both were married with kids of their own and would be descending upon the family on the 24th.

There was soft Christmas music playing in the background as the family talked and watched a movie.  A scented candle burned in the kitchen, filling the air with a light evergreen scent.

Kurt looked around.  There was a fireplace with stockings hung along the mantle, but these stockings were all denim with different colored plaid cuffs and heels and toes.  Jeff told Kurt his grandmother made them for each kid…Karen’s kids were a darker denim and Kim’s kids were a very light denim, but they still matched.  Each stocking had a pocket, like the back pocket of a pair of pants on the front and a letter sticking out of it.

They looked good against the mantle, and the evergreen garland that trimmed it.  The evergreen garland had little plaid bows decorating it and pinecones and woodland critters.

A garland trimmed the top of the bookshelves as well.

There were Christmas throw pillows, that matched and were cute…and that matched the Christmas fleece blankets that draped over the back of the couch and chairs when not in use by people.

There were candles on the window sill, fake.  However having watched one of the small ones tip them over no less the five times, well Kurt thought fake was probably the safest bet for maybe the next ten years.

Jeff’s house was blessedly free of tinsel.

After the movie Jeff’s parents sent everyone off to bed and Jeff showed Kurt the guestroom he could use.

It was decorated by Christmas’s bedding and a bow over the mirror on the dresser.  There was a small Christmas Bear sitting on the dresser as well.  It didn’t do anything.

“The other guestroom is more pink and had dolls on the dresser.  I thought this might be better. There is one of those play and pack baby bed things under the bed, though, so be careful not to stub your toe.  There is a bathroom through the door with the lever type handle.  The door with the knob goes to the closet.”

“Thanks Jeff, you and your family are life savers. You’ve salvaged my whole day.”

“It’s been fun and I’m glad I could help.  I can’t believe your family forgot you were coming home today.”

Kurt shrugged. “I guess maybe things have been busy at the garage…I don’t know.  I didn’t ask.”

They chatted a bit longer, mostly about the garage and things Kurt did there and what types of cars they worked on.  Jeff loved cars and motors of all sorts, so was thrilled to have someone with any interest in them as well to talk to.  Before too long, though, Jeff’s mom came and hustled him off to his own room so Kurt could get some sleep.

Jeff’s mom ruffled his hair as she left, like she did Jeff’s.  It was nice.

As Kurt crawled into bed, he couldn’t decide if he hoped his dad had fixed things by the next afternoon or if he hoped to be able to spend one more evening at Jeff’s, where he was more welcome than he was in his own house.

When he turned off the light he discovered one more holiday item in the room…a candle nightlight lit the room with a soft glow. He texted his Dad’s Aunt Mildred and asked if she knew a way to keep him at Dalton past the quarter.