When I was a wee pup in college, I had the super sweet privilege of being a Resident Assistant. Maybe at your college these people were called something else, or they were hated, or whatever, but trust me, it was a cool gig and I loved it. I loved it so much, in fact, that after I spent my junior year doing the RA thing in the dorm, I decided to do it again my senior year in the on-campus apartments.
Not only did this mean I got to be a part of residence life again, it also meant that my three roommates and I were automatically given an apartment and we didn't have to fight the masses for one. It also meant a first floor apartment. It also meant the handicap shower, which meant a bigger bathroom. Hey, you take what you can in college, ya know?
Which really leads me to my confession.
At the end of the year it is the RA's responsibility to check people out. This meant I had to go room by room, check to make sure no one had added a skylight or ripped up carpet, then sent the occupants on their merry way to graduated bliss in the "real world" [or most of them anyway, I guess a few were underclassmen… ].
A downfall to this particular part of the job was anything I missed and let someone sign out for was now my responsibility. That sticky stuff on the kitchen ceiling? Missed that, so I got to clean it up. The trash bag in the back stairwell? Better drag that to the dumpster [only to realize I'd left a trail of a mysterious blue ooze….]. However, a perk of this particular part of the job was that anything that was left, I had free reign to grab. Most of the time that meant used bobby pins and a couple of mismatched socks, but when lucky it meant a half a bottle of laundry detergent, a drying rack, and a set of plastic cups! SCORE!
This particular year though, I hit the mother load. I went to the basement where students were allowed to store a few items. Mostly this ended up as a luggage and box dump for the year. The year before I had found some brand new lip gloss and a set of nails in the dorm basement. And that's when I spotted it, in the corner: a Christmas tree box.
You never know if you're going to actually find what's labeled on the outside of the box INSIDE of the box, but I thought, "If that's a left-behind Christmas tree, I'm gonna take it!" I was getting married in three weeks, and moving in four, and had very little to my name. I knew that come December Brent and I probably wouldn't want to spend money on a decent Christmas tree, so if I could score one for FREE that would be awesome.
I lifted a corner of the box and sure enough it was, in fact, a tree! I picked that sucker up and hauled it up the flight of stairs and straight to my backseat. I was pretty excited.
Fast forward seven months. It is December in Louisville, Kentucky, 2008. I find the little box of ornaments our parents had passed down to us, complete with "Baby's First Christmas". And then I pulled out the Christmas tree box. I hadn't ever really opened it, so I was anxious to see what kind of condition it was in. Brent and I started pulling out the different "branches" until we found the base. As he started piecing it all together, I finished pulling out the remains of the plastic evergreen.
And that's when I saw them:
Strands of Christmas lights!
And a tree skirt!
and a few red ball ornaments…
…and some remnants of a silvery garland…
… and that's when I knew.
This was not simply a tree discarded by a forgetful college senior.
Oh no. This was the apartment tree. THE apartment tree. The one that someone came in, put up, decorated, took down and STORED IN THE APARTMENT BASEMENT EVERY YEAR. This was NWC's Apartment A Christmas Tree in apartment 8901 Pine Springs Drive, Louisville, Kentucky.
The way I saw it, I had a few options:
1. Return the tree to the box, and pay a crazy amount of shipping to mail it back to the college with a bizarre note explaining what had happened.
2. Return the tree to the box, not use it, and the next time I knew I would be venturing to NWC bring it along and place it back in the corner of the basement.
3. Keep on decorating for Christmas and realize the tree would most likely never be returned to its rightful owner and bear the responsibility of knowing there would be less holiday cheer in Apartment A this year, as well as the knowledge that I was now a thief.
Option three, though the most burdensome to my soul, seemed like the only real option.
When we moved from Louisville, we loaded boxes into the back of our moving truck and I saw it again: the stolen tree. We unloaded it in Missouri into our attic and have drug it out for Christmas every year since.
This is the first time, publicly, I've made this confession. Now, five and a half years after the theft, I tell myself that surely they've purchased another tree [with some of the thousands of dollars I am still paying them], and there is still Christmas cheer in the hallways of Apartment A.
However if anyone from NWC is reading this, and you feel robbed, contact me and I will pack the box back up and return the tree to its rightful place. Maybe.