Holiday Digest: “Christmas on Forest Avenue”

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By Amy Francis Dechary

Kelly watched her husband Rich push the double Bob toward Candy Baron, their three-year-old son Jack kicking his feet (one was missing a shoe) and his baby sister Ella angrily sucking her pacifier. They had promised Jack candy in exchange for good behavior during their Main Beach family photo shoot. But good wasn’t the word Kelly would use to describe the session. Baby spit up covered her sweater—too much bouncing to coax a smile from Ella. Then Jack slipped on the tidepool rocks, soaking one pant leg. And somewhere along the way, he lost a shoe. Kelly was wiped, and she still had gifts to wrap and the tree to decorate.

Sighing, she stepped inside Tuvalu, a tranquil tan and cream vision of what her home could be. The aroma cinnamon and strains of “White Christmas” enveloped her. 

“Welcome,” smiled the owner. “Help yourself to cider and a cookie!” 

Kelly paused. She had 10 pounds of baby weight to lose, but to heck with it. She poured some cider and chose a tree-shaped cookie before sinking onto a cloudlike white couch. She wondered what it would be like to own one, pristine and filled with down. Images of grape jelly handprints and uncapped Sharpies instantly shattered the fantasy. 

Warmed by the cider, she pushed aside her holiday to-do list and admired the Christmas tree next to her. It was a child’s dream, loaded with felt Santas and woodland creatures—fawns, bunnies, squirrels and mice. She closed her eyes. Just for a moment, she thought.

“Hey lady.”

Startled awake, Kelly wondered at the scene before her: she no longer was in a Forest Avenue shop, but in a real pine forest. And standing before her were a squirrel and a spotted fawn.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“We’re the Forest Avenue gang,” the squirrel replied, “and you’re on our turf.” 

“Talking animals? A forest in Laguna? I must be dreaming.”

“Ain’t no dream, doll,” said the squirrel. “You lost?”

“You have to help me get home. I have gifts to wrap and pies to bake!” 

“You want help? Hand over them cookies,” the fawn demanded. 

Kelly looked down. At her feet sat a basket brimming with treats. 

“That’s the problem with you humans.” The fawn nibbled a gingersnap. “You don’t stop and smell the roses.”

“Easy for you to say,” she snorted. “Isn’t that all you have to do every day—smell the roses?”

“It’s capitalism. Shop, buy, shop some more,” said the fawn. 

“Will your kids even remember this Christmas?” The squirrel crunched a sugar cookie. 

“Christmas is a lot of work, but it’s magical,” Kelly said. But the squirrel had a point. Ella couldn’t even talk and Jack loved boxes more than the actual gifts.

In the distance, bells peeled.

“It’s time!” said the fawn, shaking his white tail. “The Canyon Coyote Crew is hosting the annual winter dance-off. Want to come?”

“I need to get home!”

“Follow the trail,” said the squirrel. 

A line of red sprinkles appeared on the ground. As Kelly followed it, the wind picked up, filling the air with pine needles and sprinkles. Kelly shielded her eyes. The bells grew louder.

“Mommy, look!” Kelly blinked. Jack stood before her, face covered in chocolate, thrusting a felt fawn in her face. 

“Can we bring him home?” Jack asked. 

She plucked the ornament from his sticky fingers. Ginger crumbs clung to its white chest and muzzle. Impossible.

“Ready, honey?” asked Rich. “The tree isn’t going to decorate itself.”

The fawn’s tail swayed from side to side.

“The tree can wait. Let’s go home and put on some Christmas tunes,” she said. “It’s a perfect night for a holiday dance party.”

Amy Francis Dechary dreams of owning a white couch where she can sit and watch her family’s gang of backyard squirrels dance in the pine trees.

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