Postal Code: Heaven

14 Feb

A stuffed Panda was looking at me from a bin at Office Depot. It was Christmas Eve afternoon and although I never shop so close to the holidays, the store was near church. And I was running low on ink.

It seemed to have life like eyes. I stared back at it, noticing its red and white holiday scarf wrapped around its neck. By reflex, I picked the animal up. I registered its softness along with the strange way it seemed to fit exactly into the space between my arms and chest, nestling there as if it were my child. It took me by surprise. I hadn’t felt anything that soft or about that size for four months. I closed my eyes with the memory of holding a baby like figure.

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I decided to buy it. If anything, I could save it for the neighbors next door who were expecting a child within a few weeks. I hadn’t yet purchased their shower gift. But I knew that night that I wasn’t giving the Panda to anyone. The Panda was staying with me.

Once home, I placed it on the bed giving it a seat of honor. Then I curled up, took the toy into my arms and drew it to me. A few months ago, I would have hurled the Panda against the wall in anger for making a mockery of real life intimacy.
I looked at the Panda’s eyes that seemed to be gazing at me in such a life like fashion. How was it possible that an inanimate object seemed to be peering into my soul? Had the toy makers just done an exceptional job knowing how to replicate human features to induce an emotional reaction like good animation makes you fall in love with Winnie the Pooh? I wasn’t certain.

I sighed and felt myself falling into a slumber more peaceful than I’d felt in months. The Christmas tree had spared me a painful holiday season. As long as there was life present in the house, I missed Rumi and Hafiz’s absence less and could bear it more. I could see the tree from my bedroom. Like when I was a child, I fell asleep while looking out at the tree. Its gentle illumination lulled me to sleep. Its presence was like an angel standing on guard.

I had ordered the tree on Amazon.com. Yes, on Amazon. Although it wasn’t delivered by a drone it was nonetheless brought to my doorstep by a local Christmas tree farm. I looked at it leaning against the side of my house all bundled up in twine. When I tried lifting it, the thing seemed to weigh a hundred pounds. I needed a stand yet didn’t know where to buy one. I decided to try Lowe’s Home Improvement.

A neighbor had to help me. She came to my house before work and together we lifted the thing into the stand and screwed it into place. Then we cut the twine and like a woman letting her hair down from a severe bun, its branches tumbled out. As they spilled their intoxicating scent into the room, it was love at first sight.

Then I had to leave for a week of business travel. After pouring a gallon of water into the base of the stand, I gingerly parted company with the tree. I felt almost as sad as I used to be when leaving Rumi and Hafiz in the care of a house sitter.

The tree was waiting for me when I got back. If Rumi and Hafiz were alive, they would have batted at its branches and tried to climb up it. They might have even knocked it down although it was pretty big. The house still smelled amazing. As I went through the mail, I discovered someone had sent me an early Christmas gift. It was an ornament upon which the faces of Rumi and Hafiz had been painted. The likeness was so striking my heart ached. On the back of the ornament was printed, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh.

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The tree kept me company for a month. I didn’t want its living presence to depart and dreaded New Years. Another neighbor had to help me take it down and hoist it on top of my Mercedes while my surf racks now served a dual purpose. We took it to the Christmas tree cemetery.

Then I swept the dry needles from the floor and mopped the floor. It was deja-vu of cleaning the house after Rumi and Hafiz died. One had cancer; the other couldn’t bear to see his brother go.

The next day I sobbed.

I now sleep with the stuffed Panda and a stuffed cat while I till the soil of my heart, preparing for new creatures to love.

If I could send a Valentine I would address it: Postal Code – Heaven.

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