Stealing Christmas

Here is a confession of mine that has been a long time coming. Please don't judge too harshly.

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.

post signature


Hannah said...

Ah, that's too funny! You can't feel too guilty about it though, you didn't know until six-ish months later. It's not like you took The tree on purpose. Plus, with all the money they get from their students, I'm sure they were able to replace it that year and no one missed out on a pretty Christmas tree. Maybe you should even consider it their gift to you for being such an awesome RA :)

Elizabeth Colbert Burns said...

This made me laugh out loud - I remember that tree as I lived in apartment A for a year :) I am sure they moved on to other decor. What a funny story!

Stephanie White said...

Stop it.
I just busted out loud ugly laughter at this in the workplace.

Oh my gosh.
Kelsey. I can't even find the words.

Merry Christmas!

Sam said...

Kelsey that is hilarious! I’m sure they clearly marked the next Christmas tree box!

momiss said...

That is absolutely the prettiest and most lucky Christmas tree that has ever belonged to any thief anywhere. Without exception. :D

Mandi Wolfswinkel said...

I love this. Like a lot.

bridger said...

You should just send a note that says, "If anyone is missing the tree, don't worry... I am taking it back to my workshop to fix a broken bulb. Just go back to bed. Also, don't go looking for the roast beast!"

*carrie* said...

I am forwarding this link to President Christy right now. People like you need to be dealt with from the top of the chain!

Marlon Haverdink said...

As the current Director of Residence Life at NWC, it is my duty to inform you that I will be issuing you a contract for theft. The Christmas spirit has been missing from Apartment A for awhile and now I know why. It breaks my heart that one of our own could have done such a dastardly deed. I would expect this kind of behavior from your sister Kali, but you??? I'm shocked. On a serious note, reading this made my day! I plan on sharing this with all of NWC's current RAs!

eanderso said...

Kelsey - As the Director of Residence Life when this happened, I have a few comments.

First, thanks for the confession. How freeing is it to share your sins? Being an RA certainly taught you a lot.

Second, I hope this adds to your guilt, but I remember spending hours looking for this special tree, as it was donated from one of the founding members of the Northwestern Academy. It is worth hundreds of dollars and is a one of a kind. One of those ornaments has $1000 hidden inside it.

Third, the advancement office saw this and said they'll be expecting a significantly larger donation this year to compensate for years of loss.

Fourth, since I made up the last two comments, I really want to know who even bought that tree as I don't recall Apartment A even having one. Maybe Lisa Burch or Marlon would know.

May your conscience now be free to enjoy the tree in your living room every year, as you think back on great memories of the place that you stole it from.


Kiersten VW said...

I am a senior this year in apartment B and I don't think A or B have trees this year, but we don't hold any animosity. Glad you are enjoying it!