Daddy came home with a dozen trees strapped and loaded on his truck. He had a bagful of gifts in the passenger seat.
He rolled his window down.
“Better hurry,” he yelled to me, spitting sunflower seeds. “Got a lot to do tonight.”
I sat in the front seat with my hands on the heater. The radio played Nat King Cole. No matter how old I get, I’m hard pressed to recall fonder memories.
We rounded the corner into a mobile-home park. It was dark. People had decorated homes with Christmas lights of every color.
We pulled into a driveway with no lights. Daddy brought out two Santa hats. Mine was too big. So was his.
He read from a clipboard. “First delivery is Billy Adams,” he said.
So, I dug through the bag for boxes addressed to Billy.
We walked to the porch and beat on the door, Daddy carried the balsam fir in a bear hug. A man answered.
Daddy asked, “You Mister Billy Adams?”
The man looked uneasy, so Daddy explained the whole thing. About how our church donated trees and gifts to people who signed up to receive help during the holidays. He used plenty of charm to get his point across.
The man looked offended. “My name isn’t Billy,” he said. “I didn’t sign up for help, and I don’t need no damn tree.”
Then he slammed the door.
Daddy put his boot in the door jamb. “But Mister Adams, maybe your wife signed you up.”
“Impossible. She’s dead.”
“Well,” Daddy said, peeking inside. “Looks like you ain’t got a tree, seems to me you could use one.”
“Don’t want a tree.”
“And we got presents, too. Nothing fancy, just a bunch’a fruitcakes.”
A blatant lie. The boxes contained no fruitcakes, only heavenly confections that our church ladies baked. Brownies, cookies, and God’s gift to mankind: fudge.
“I don’t want presents,” the man said, pushing the door shut.
Daddy pushed harder. “Now Mister Adams, have a heart. If you don’t accept this, my boss-man’s gonna make me pay for it.”
Lie number two.
Daddy was a volunteer.
Without another word, Daddy busted through the door with the tree, saying, “How about we put it in this corner?”
The man hollered, “I didn’t sign up for any tree!”
A boy walked into the living room. He was about my age. He wore matching pajamas—the very kind you don’t want your buddies knowing about.
The kid locked eyes on the tree. His face lit up like sunlight.
“OH MY GOD! IT’S HERE!” the boy shouted.
My daddy squatted down to the kid’s eye-level. He handed him a box, then put his hat on the boy’s head.
“Well now,” he said. “You must be Billy.”
I miss Daddy at Christmas.