Rob placed the star on the top of the tree. He could never get it straight and wasn’t enough of a perfectionist to try all that hard.

His mom asked him if he could wrap the lights around too.

“Shouldn’t we have done that before the star?”

“I forgot.”

Rob had tried year after year to convince his mom to skip Christmas decorations all together.

“But what about your younger siblings?” was always her reply.

Rob thought gifts and wrapping paper should be sufficient for them.

As he plugged in the lights, his mother called out to him from the kitchen where she was dishing up plates of apple crisp. “Rob, are you a Grinch-in-training or are you apprenticing with Scrooge?”

Rob let out a sarcastic laugh but there was a smile on his face. It was a bad joke. A mom joke. But now that he was older, his mom made fun of him, and that made him feel like she was a real person. A friend. Almost.

“Your jokes are dumb, Mom,” he said.

She handed him a plate of apple crisp and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

“Merry Christmas, Rob.”