First, I visited my father’s house. After I returned home, my mother asked me to bring her there in the dark of night. We got on the highway, drove north, then took the second exit, but that was all I could remember. There were trees everywhere, and I could not tell if they were poplar or pecan. Around and around we went, the headlights shining into windows, and I didn’t know which one had my father standing in it squinting to make out the color of the van in the driveway. The next morning, he gave her the address. She gave him me, and he told me we’d do things differently from now on. No fights, no chores, no tree.
At Home Depot, we bought neon green spray-paint and a single strand of Christmas lights. In the back yard, we left a bright frame around a patch of brown grass. Inside, we strung a carboard box with lights and began inventing new rituals. Oh Christmas Cube, oh Christmas cube, how lovely are your corners. Your lights are painted neon green, the nicest shade we’ve ever seen, oh Christmas cube, oh Christmas cube, how lovely are your corners.
We did not drive back south down the highway, we did not take the exit that leads to her house, and we did not look into the windows at the pine tree covered in our old ornaments and light.