God, what a damn mess, taking down a brittle dead Christmas tree is. And after all my boasting about what a steal-of-a-juicy-spruce our $39 Home Depot tree was, lasting over a month – it was still alive!
Well, from across the room, anyway, from a safe vista distance, it still looked alive….
Until I got up close to start the dreaded task of taking down all the ornaments. With the removal of each ornament came a cascading of needles, leaving skeletal branches. Sticks. Pup loved it. One big branch he longed to haul away between his baby teeth.
The floor became a splintery green puddle of dead needles the pup reveled rolling in, so I had to cart him away to his crate. His ears drooped in missing out on all the dead green fun.
Beyond having to sweep up this dreaded dead mess later, there are other reasons I dread this de-ornamenting task, even more than cleaning out kitchen cabinets. The biggest is that it can be far more emotionally laden than cleaning out kitchen cabinets.
Frankly, most years, I’m able to de-ornament the tree as efficiently as cleaning out the tupperware drawer. Though I’m not the most conscientious ornament tissue-wrapper and packer, and it’s amazing the more delicate ornaments are still in relatively good shape. The very ornaments my mother bought to commemorate her daughter’s birth –namely me – going on fifty years ago, glass balls encasing gold angels, are still intact!
Though not the ornament of a brilliant-blond little girl in a miniature princess bed. The little girl is lost. The bed, crushed flat. Still, every year I hang this crushed-flat ornament because on the bottom of the empty bed is my mother’s inscription: “1966 year Sandy in bed with flu.”
I don’t usually read all these inscriptions every year, but this year I read a lot of them. There is the one “Sandy picked out herself. At age 2,” scribbled on the bottom of a snowman in a tiny crocheted pink hat, in my mother’s handwriting.
Then there are the newer additions since my own boys were born. “2003 Ryan’s first Christmas!” My mother wrote on the back of the rustic snowman in a bright red sweater.
The annual ornament tradition to commemorate each year was started by my mother when I was born. And it was continued by my mother when her grandchildren were born.
It is the weight of this tradition that I felt this year, in this annual stripping of the tree. Because I don’t know how much longer this tradition will continue. Not as my mother sat on the lounge chair all Christmas day, dozing, when other years, she would have been in the kitchen helping me to prepare string beans and peel potatoes. The week before Christmas, she had been back in the emergency room, this time for an arterial occlusion.
Most years, I am ready to take down the tree, to return to normalcy. But in 2012 especially, normalcy was knocked off course enough times, that I’m not sure how to define normalcy anymore.
I wasn’t ready to take this dead tree down. To face the emotionally laden of packing away so many commemorative ornaments, with so many inscriptions in my mother’s handwriting – once sure and striking, now thin and trembling, in the simplest tasks of signing a check.
I’ve read so many blog posts about New Year resolutions. I made none. I’m not in the mood for anticipating a new year. The start of an unknown – 2013 is fraught with uncertainty. A normal day can be upended as easily as our new pup knocking over my morning coffee, with the ring of my cellphone from the Safe at Home Alert system when my mother has fallen again and can’t get up.
The only sure thing I can count on is the stars; I don’t always look up when out walking the dog for his last nightly pee. But last night I did. A good night to look up, as the sky was crystal clear. I was at once stunned and reassured to see that the Little Dipper was still securely fastened in its celestial place.