Yesterday, being the first day of December, the first thing Chris and I did after we ate breakfast was go out and get our Christmas tree. I guess it's about five feet tall or so. I named it Sammy. We got some white lights and a tree stand at the hardware store and set it up in the living room across from the couch.
That evening, after we cooked dinner, Shelby came over to help us decorate it. I pulled out from under the bed the box of Christmas ornaments I've amassed over the past couple years--"amassed"--which is to say, six or so. (The most cherished of which is the snowman Erika and David sent last year :) .) We put a Christmas CD on, and Chris went down to the basement to bring up the box of ornaments that my mom had brought up for me and Shelby in October.
He came back up empty-handed and looking shocked. "The entire basement is cleaned out," he said. "There's nothing down there at all."
He went up to see the landladies, and Shelby and I sat nervously on the couch. I hadn't looked inside the box when my mom brought it initally, but though I knew it to contain some plain glass balls and some other vintage ornaments she'd gotten at an antique store for us, I was really worried that it also had the ornaments that had been on our trees growing up--all the ones we made as children. Not just mine but Shelby's, too. And I was worried about Chris's stuff--some winter clothes, a box of books, his old laptop with his college writing on it.
When Chris came back down, he told us that the landladies, although they'd given us permission to store stuff in the basement, didn't know that we actually HAD stored stuff (and didn't bother to ask) and had hired a guy to clean the basement out and throw everything away.
I was pretty upset, to put it mildly.
After a little while Shelby and Chris rallied, and we made hot toddies and put them in a thermos and went to the Rite Aid to buy Christmas snacks and supplies for making some new ornaments. We decorated the tree with candy canes and a box of colored balls on sale for $3.99. We watched Fawlty Towers on DVD and made sugar cookies, and Shelby slept over on the sofa, so the evening was saved.
Then this morning after Shelby went to church and Chris went to work, I was watering the tree, and there was a knock on the door. It was one of the landladies. She apologized profusely, and begged me to let her give me a check.
Well, what kind of price tag am I supposed to put on all those memories?
I was really nice to her. I said it was nobody's fault, and to please forget about it, and that I was so sorry she was up all night feeling distraught over what she'd done. I declined the check offer five times. I offered to shovel the front sidewalk (it's snowing). She said that's okay, she was on her way to do it now, and left.
Now I'm typing this because I feel bad all over the map.
I feel bad that I was so nice when I'm still really, really angry at them. I don't care if it was an accident. Why can't people be COMPETENT for once? All it takes is a phone call: Did you store stuff in the basement? Why is it so hard to DO YOUR JOB? I'm angry at myself for being a pushover, and for acting like it was no big deal when I'm in actuality still sad about it.
I feel bad that I AM so upset, over material belongings. I have my family, I have my loved ones; I'm so lucky. Yesterday was the happiest day, this incident aside. Why can't I shake this off? Am I so shallow that I still want to punch the wall when I think about it? (Yes.) I feel mad that she had to come down and bring it all up again, because I had been feeling better about it after such a nice evening.
I feel bad that my mom and my sister trusted me with these precious materials and I couldn't take care of them. I feel bad that so many boxes of Chris's are gone. If all my college writing disappeared I don't know what I'd do. I feel TERRIBLE about that.
I feel bad that all those times Chris complained about the landladies I tried to see the other side and to stand up for them. HE WAS RIGHT.
I feel bad that I didn't make them give me a check for all the stuff that's gone forever. And I feel bad that they feel bad. And I feel bad for feeling bad that they feel bad, because I'm still mad so I hope they DO feel bad! And I feel bad for being so mean as to be glad that they feel bad. (This is like a Dr. Seuss book.)
However, I do feel better after spilling this out, so thank you for listening, Dr. Audience. Now I can hopefully get on with the holiday season, with peace and love and joy, and not with feeling bad, because that's a waste of perfectly good eggnog.
Update: When we got home tonight (after seeing Enchanted--more on that later) there was a check for $200 taped to our door. But we're going to take it back to them tomorrow when we have to see them about something else (more on THAT later). Neither of us feels right about it. Still, the gesture was nice.