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Our neighbors on the corner are decked out. They’ve got the double-stroke blinking lights that drip over the upstairs porch, the reef with a big red bow on the door, the velvety poinsettias lined up exactly in a straight line in the window ledges, and, of course, inside: the notorious pine tree caresses the top of the white ceiling and extends halfway into the living room. Presents have started collecting underneath. At night I snuck over there to marvel at their glory:
It’s contagious because the neighbors next door have a tree in place as well. Is it a coincidence that its the native Guatemalans who have it together enough to get the tree up before Black Friday? An online search for “Where to buy a pine tree in Antigua?” produces all kinds of random things, including Hiper Paiz’s (our Walmart) upcoming Christmas specials. I close the window and sigh. I want a tree farm, I want to plant a tree for the one we kill with one fell swoop with our Salvadorean machete. I want to hike up a mountain to pick the right one and throw it over our shoulders and triumphantly descend with pine needles scraping our skin until a rash becomes our medal. I want my hands to smell of bark. Am I asking for too much? Tomorrow, I will knock on the neighbor’s door and praise their tree and their foresight, but mostly I will ask them where they got it. It’ll be my first Christmas in Guatemala since I was a kid and the tree is the harbinger. How can I just walk past it without paying due respect?
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