Summary: May Parker has always won the neighborhood’s Christmas Decorating Contest, but this year she has competition in one Wade Wilson.
Peter showed up Thanksgiving morning, like he always did, just in time for the parade to start. Honestly, May didn’t know how he managed to get all the way across the city with all that hub-bub going on, and he’d stopped to get her the can of cranberry sauce that she’d forgotten, too. Peter detoured up to the attic to pull out the Christmas lights, and then sat down on the couch to watch the parade and untangle the lights.
May spent most of her morning in the kitchen. She didn’t ask for Peter’s help; he was hopeless in the kitchen and she’d given up on him ages ago. Too easily distracted, too impatient to wait for something to cook longer on a low heat. He burnt everything he tried to cook, and May wouldn’t have him ruining their lunch.
Besides, after all these years, May Parker had Thanksgiving down to a fine science. The turkey (smaller than they used to buy, years ago when Ben was still with them, when Harry Oswald joined them at their table for almost every holiday, when Mary Jane snuck in through the backdoor from next door) was out of the oven and on the table exactly at noon, just as the parade is winding down. The Christmas season was welcomed in with the approach of St. Nicholas and his reindeer, signaling the end of the parade, and Peter was getting to his feet, shutting off the TV, and joining her at the table. There’s too much food for just the two of them: stuffing, potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, roasted spiced carrots, little smokies in a sweet sauce with pineapple and cherries, the homemade dinner rolls that were May’s mother’s recipe, and of course pumpkin and pecan pie. May had set the table for three, like she did every holiday, and both May and Peter laid a hand on the empty chair when they link their other hands to pray.
In the end, May was grateful she had cooked so much, because Peter ate more than she’d expected. She suspected he hadn’t been eating well, he was too thin and kept himself too busy, that job he had taking pictures for that silly paper couldn’t pay very well, and Peter had been supplementing coffee for regular meals even when he’d still been a teenager. She packed all the leftovers up in several Tupperware containers, set them into the fridge, and told Peter sternly to take them home with him when he went.
May finally sat down on the couch, resting her feet, and helped Peter untangle the last of the lights. He disappeared back up into the attic to pull out their tree, the ornaments, the figures for the lawn, the wreaths and garland, the tree skirt and nativity scene, and even more lights. Ben, God rest his soul, had absolutely loved Christmas. Each year, he had spent days setting up the display outside, rearranging things to his liking. They bought something new each year, did something different, never the same display twice. It became a tradition in the neighborhood, and Ben had taken such pride in it.
After his death, that first holiday season without him… Well, difficult didn’t begin to cover it. Peter had been so quiet, so moody. He locked himself in his room day and night, skipped meals, snuck out his bedroom window and came back with blood on his clothes. May cried herself to sleep every night, in her big cold empty bed. She didn’t know how to deal with Peter, how to ease her pain when she couldn’t cope with her own. Ben’s loss, his absence, had just been too much.
Thanksgiving had been a somber affair, the television off, Peter hiding away upstairs. May made soup and sandwiches, sat on the couch and cried, wondered what she was ever going to do without the man she’d shared her life with for thirty-seven years. They didn’t decorate that year, didn’t even bother to put up the Christmas tree. No one said anything, though May sometimes saw the families that wondered down the street and paused in front of the house, expecting something grand and beautiful and finding only the Parkers, or what was left of them, lost and grieving.
But, then the Christmas cards started coming. From all over Queens, people sent their respects and their condolences and their tales of growing up seeing Ben’s lights every year. May realized just how many lives Ben had touched, how many people had loved and missed him. It made her own heart hurt less, made the pain easier to bear knowing she wasn’t alone. She looked at the pile of Christmas cards that had arrived over the span of a week, and then looked around her living room, barren and empty without even a candle lit, and was disgusted with herself. Ben would have been so disappointed in her, not even trying to make an effort.
So, she’d gotten up the next Saturday and forced Peter out of bed. She sent him up to the attic while she cleared a place for the tree. They struggled together to untangle the lights, to put up the tree. May held the ladder while Peter hung giant, light-up snowflakes from the porch and fitted nets of lights over the bushes, and wrapped garland around the railing of the porch stairs. Peter climbed up onto the roof to put a bright silver star over the chimney, and when they finally went in from the cold for hot cocoa, Peter was smiling and May was too.
After that first year, they returned to tradition. Peter watched the parade while May cooked, they ate right at noon, and rested a bit, and then headed outside to set up the display.
When Peter was little, almost every house on the block had at least a few lights and a wreath on their door, but each year May noticed fewer and fewer displays. She knew why, of course. Christmas decorations cost a pretty penny, and then the cost of running the lights each night, all month long… It got expensive, terribly expensive, but May always made do.
They hung the snowflakes, strung the lights, put the star up on the roof. Peter wrangled the nativity scene so it was exactly as May wanted it, and Peter made suggestions as to what new thing they could do that year. May didn’t like those huge inflatables; she thought they were tacky, and far too expensive for what they amounted to. She hated the idea of Peter being up on the roof longer than the few minutes necessary to hang the star, so she dismissed the idea of putting light-up reindeer on the roof. But, the reindeer… Perhaps one or two in the yard wouldn’t be remiss.
They headed inside, for cocoa and another piece of pie each. Peter stayed the night, sleeping in his old room. It was nice, and the ache of Ben’s loss didn’t feel quite so sharp. It’d been a decade since he’d been gone, and May managed it better with each passing year.
Two days after Thanksgiving, it snowed. Peter showed up to scoop her sidewalk, and she appreciated it. A second visit in just a week was a blessing as far as May was concerned, it gave her the chance to send him home with even more leftovers. She hoped he was eating them. He came in from his chore, sweating beneath his coat and hat, and frowning just a little.
May raised an eyebrow. “Is there something the matter, Peter?”
Peter shook his head, “No, just. I think there’s someone moving in down the street.”
“Oh? I thought I heard something about someone buying the old Duncan house.”
“Yeah, but who hangs Christmas lights before they’ve even finished unpacking the moving truck?”
“Perhaps they’re just excited about the holiday, Peter. The Duncan house has always been such a lovely place, I bet it’ll grand with some lights. That Roger Duncan was such a scrooge, he never hung so much as a stocking in all my years here.”
“You aren’t afraid of a little competition?” Peter teased.
May huffed. “Really, Peter. I think it’s good that someone else is decorating. I’m hardly threatened by it.”
Peter snickered and headed into the kitchen to put his plate away. May peeked out the curtain at the house just down the street; whoever it was had wrapped a couple tree trunks with brightly colored lights, and more multicolored lights framed the porch. It was different from May’s more classic, white-light display, more playful. Still, it was only lights, and May wouldn’t let herself be bothered. She walked away from the window before Peter could catch her peeking, and didn’t think about it again.
Just a few days into December, May opened the local paper and found her neighbor’s house on the front page. The article was an opinion piece about her neighbor’s apparently rather unusual nativity scene, and the author was calling to have the display taken down, claiming it was “offensive”.
May set down the paper and pursed her lips. On one hand, May believed rather firmly in free speech and one’s ability to do what one wanted with their own front yard. On the other, her Christmas display had not been mentioned once and she had noticed she wasn’t getting nearly as many visitors from the neighborhood. Was this the answer? Was everyone down checking out her neighbor’s display instead?
May stood up, pulled her robe tighter around herself, and peeked out the window. Sure enough, there was a small cluster of people gathered on the sidewalk in front of the other house, less than half a dozen pointing and whispering to one another. May tapped a finger to her chin and decided she needed to see it for herself.
Twenty minutes later, May was dressed and standing on the sidewalk in front of the old Duncan house (she reminded herself to find out who had bought the place, so she could at least put a name to her newest neighbor… Though, the paper hadn’t mentioned a name either, so it was possible that no one knew). She examined then nativity scene critically. She would admit it was unusual, but she herself wouldn’t call it offensive. Everyone was dressed, and there were no satanic symbols or ritual sacrifices happening.
It was a full nativity scene, which in and of itself was a little unusual. The figures looked to be solid ceramic, each custom designed, so it must have cost her neighbor a fortune. Instead of three wise men stood all four Golden Girls, holding treasure chests of gold, or bottles of frankincense and myrrh. There were still angels, but instead of golden-haired women there were instead two large, muscular men, one with three metal claws jutting forth from each hand and the other with only one eye and a big metal arm; they were still, however, sporting large white wings and golden halos. The shepherd had been replaced with an old man that bore a resemblance to both Larry King and Hugh Hefner. And there, in the middle, was the scene surely causing all the controversy. There was no Mary, no Joseph. Instead, there was Captain America, on his knees, one hand pressed to his heart, and beside him Iron Man, hand stretched out and on Captain America’s shoulder. In between them was the manger, with baby Jesus… Except, of course, this baby Jesus was wearing a Spider-Man suit.
When May walked back to her own home, she paused on the sidewalk. In all honesty, her display was… rather boring. Classic, yes, and lovely, yes. But, boring.
Perhaps Peter would have some ideas.
A/N: So Wade technically hasn’t made an officially appearance yet. But soon! Next part.
Wade’s Nativity Scene:
Mary – Captain America
Joseph – Iron Man
Jesus – Spider-Man
The Shepherd – Stan Lee (in the Iron Man movies Stan Lee has portrayed both Hugh Hefner and Larry King)
The Wisemen – The Golden Girls
The Angels – Wolverine and Cable (with wings and halos)