In 1988, my wife Michele and I were a young, engaged, happy couple and looking forward to Christmas. We lived in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston at the time. Michele was working full-time at Harvard Community Health in Kenmore Square. I had cut down to three days a week in my regular job while I started on my doctoral work and did some adjunct teaching.
The end of the fall semester was especially hectic that year. I had taken a full course load and was teaching two classes. Christmas was coming and I was frantically writing my own papers and grading papers for 50 students. I really didn’t focus on Christmas at all until the day before. By that evening we weren’t at all ready. We didn’t even have a tree yet.
I picked Michele up in Kenmore Square after dropping off my final grades at Bunker Hill Community College. We were picturing a couple of places in Brighton Center that sold trees, but when we got there, they were closed. We were standing outside a flower shop on Washington Street. It was closed, and it had been our last chance.
I guess we were looking forlorn. I guess our predicament must have been obvious to the cop who pulled up next to us. He rolled down his window.
“I bet you are looking for a Christmas tree.”
I remember Michele answering him. “We are. Everything’s closed.”
“It’s your lucky day,” he said. “I busted a guy earlier who was selling trees illegally. Follow me. When I flash my lights, look to your left. There will be some trees behind a wall.”
We followed him up Washington Street and a few blocks up he flashed his lights. We pulled over, crossed the street, and looked over the wall. There had to have been 20 or more trees there. We called out our thank you to the cop. I think he was smiling as much as we were.
It’s nice picking out a tree when price is no object. Memory is a funny thing, but in my mind, it was a big tree. If my memory is right it was also the first real tree I ever had. We brought it back to our apartment, decorated it, put the presents under it. It was going to be a good Christmas.