The other weekend, Elizabeth and her husband David decorated their seasonal Christmas tree; a natural and biological extension of their nuclear family, I was invited to help. Aside from actually selecting ornaments, for them all glass and many hand-blown, keeping a vigilance on the naughty pets and cuddling the baby are required. Unfortunately, our cosmic schedules were misaligned: I spent the Saturday working furiously, they bemoaned my absence but nevertheless created a marvelous Christmas spectacle. I stopped over on Sunday evening, for a welcome requisite family dinner, a respite from the tensions and migraines of work deadlines. Their tree was an electric fire, large opalescent spheres and crystalline glass pieces refracting glints and sparkles, jettisoning the electromagnetic power between them, creating something tangible, and seemingly systemic. Donned with gay apparel, the tree seemed more alive.
When we were quite young, Elizabeth and I, along with Adam, barely of age and size to mention, our family bought our Christmas tree at a large lot near our suburban neighborhood, a sort of municipal state grounds used for the annual fair, for esoteric computer parts conventions that lured pale geeks from their basement, for lavish pet shows that vetted pretentious cat and dog fanciers from across the land. During December, each year, it was an artificial forest. A luxurious carpet of Fraser Fir, Blue Spruce, Virginia Pine, Douglas Fir. A clean aroma permeating, overcasting the exhaust from the busy thoroughfare. I do not really recall any specific or significant events, more so lingering visceral memories: pine perfume, cheap peppermint from those small candy canes distributed at almost any and ever commercial establishment throughout the Christmas season. I am not particularly or terribly fond of peppermint now; then, I remember eating them with relish, trying to fit oblong bits into my mouth, licking away the red coloring until the sugared carcass remaining was smooth, white as bone.
Also lingering: fleeing, brief escapes, jumping or flailing from now-empty Christmas tree stump-holders, these squat metal cylinders sprouting almost mechanically from the earth in a very perfect Cartesian plane. From one miniature tower to the next, I would jump. Each time, invariably, my giant-sized child-foot would be ensnared in the gaping mouth of the holder, at which point, I believe, I wailed until my family could locate me, pull the limb free, to safety, always a bit roughly. Some force was necessary. As we grew a bit older, we began to journey further out, beyond the familiar confines of franchised suburban sprawl, to actual Christmas tree farms, where the roots seep into the ground, where boots and a sharpened hand-saw were worn and carried. These trees were fresher, lived longer in that corner of our living room, without dropping quite the volume of needles.
The past few years, I have decorated a minute plastic Christmas tree for my apartment, about three feet high. It has stood atop various chairs or tables, usually placed before a large window. Crunchy, a bit prickly, dyed the familiar evergreen, it evokes no real visceral reaction, at least while naked. Once adorned, even though I usually begrudge the task as another chore, I am always pleased; I feel prepared for Christmas and my spirits raised. Normally, my little tree is up by now, dressed and festive. Lately, like the other weekend with my family, it just seems to not fall into line with my schedule, something that perpetually grows further uncontrollable and inconsolable, some behemoth leviathan of tedious responsibility. Part of the hesitation, subconscious and external, in the form of fluid obligation, is that, for me, always, decorating the tree is a communal activity. Something accomplished surrounded by those I love, and who love me in return. Tonight, hopefully, in the company of the Vince Guiraldi Charlie Brown Christmas album and a strong egg nog, I will embrace the season, embrace the endearingly pathetic plastic, and forgo the other stress, jump away, with abandon, without fear of what may come when I hit the ground. Someone is always around to lend a hand, pull me up from folly.
(image taken from A Well Traveled Woman)