One of the first things Bobbi did when we arrived in London was to find a magazine which listed the best places to buy Christmas trees. We've been waiting eagerly until the time came (we didn't want all the good trees to be gone, but we'd like our tree to last past New Years so that it will be still be here for Christmas when Steve and Kate arrive.)
Bobbi finished with exams last week, and today she judged that the day had finally arrived. So off we set to the Christmas Forest on Goldhawk Road which is about 12 blocks down the street.
Well, frankly, our eyes were a little bigger than my shoulders....we purchased an nine foot monster and hoisted it up over my shoulder. I made it about a block before having to set it down. I wasn't particularly worried, BUT I did reconcile myself to the fact that it was going to take about three hours to travel the next 11 blocks.
"Ken I hep youu wit dat?" I heard a soft Scottish accent ask from behind the tree.
"Oh, no, no. I can get it. No problem", I turned see a pleasant looking fellow looking at me like I was nuts.
He finally took "no" for an answer, and I went another block, well, half a block and set the evergreen bundle down again.
"Are ye sure ya dinna wan a hand wi dat?" he asked me again.
Oh for heaven sake, I thought. Why can't people just mind their own business, what does this fellow want? I thought. A tip, just to help, or a chance to scope out my house and rob it?
It's odd that we look for danger or trouble where there probably isn't any, but that just seems to be the way we are wired.
"No, No. Really, I'm fine."
"Well, I gotta frebaraogarchurlgle, you know frebaraogarchurlgle?"
Honestly, I had no idea what he was saying but I realized that this man had lost his bid to remain an island, so I said "Sure".
"Right, well I'll jest go fetch et."
"Well, only if you let me buy you a drink after." I said.
And he went off to fetch the frebaraogarchurlgle, whatever it was, and I found myself wondering again what he would want...money, or worse yet, a never ending conversation about God knows what. Crazy thoughts went through my head...maybe he'll want a damn invitation to Christmas dinner.
The Scot returned with the frebaraogarchurlgle, which turned out to be the very perfect thing: a two wheeled hand truck. Together, we hoisted the tree up on to truck and pushed it back across the remaining ten blocks to home.
We had a great conversation about New Year's in Edinburgh, and our helper marveled at the fact that most American's seemed to be so keen on Scotland. I speculated that this was probably because so many American's had Scottish roots. We talked about the tree in Trafalgar Square, donated each year by the Norwegian people as a gift of thanks for British help against the Nazis.
He expressed a gratitude that the Americans jumped in when they did and I expressed a debt of thanks that the British were able to keep the Germans at Bay long enough for us to get our heads screwed on straight and learn where our duty lay.
Together we navigated down through the Christmas Shoppers and finally arrived at our house. He helped us get the tree to our door.
"Will you come in for something hot," asked Bobbi.
"Oh no, but thanks anyway".
"Well, here, anyway, please," I said, "please, let me at least buy you a drink. We couldn't have got this tree home without your help."
"Yes," laughed Bobbi, "it's a lot bigger than I think we thought!"
"Well, it' certainly a great beautiful tree," he said.
I passed him a few coins. "Please," I said, "I really want to buy you a drink in return for your help."
He seemed pleased to hear the coins jingle into his hands (I really didn't want to offend him, but I also wanted to say thank you, and so I was glad.)
He started off down the walk and I called "Thanks" one more time. "Oh, ye're welcome." he said.
Somehow, I felt reluctant to let him go, feeling that, despite the money, there was something left undone.
And then I took the step I had been so afraid of at the start. "I'm Alex, by the way." He didn't quite hear me. "Wha?" "Alex," I said, "That's my name."
"Oh," he said,taking the hand I offered. "I'm John".
"Thank you John," I said, "Merry Christmas."
"And to you too." he said. He gave me a smile and turned off down the walk bushing the frebaraogarchurlgle back into traffic and out of sight.
People,and especially me, I thought, sure are funny. And then I went into the house where my wife was decorating our gigantic British Christmas tree.