Memories in a Christmas Tree – Mind Traveling
I hemmed and hawed. Would I put up a tree this year? I’ll be home. But a tree will get everything covered with pine needles. The weather forecasted an icy snow day. I had plenty to keep busy! But then, something inside me snapped, and I made a U-turn and returned toward the cluster of trees for sale. I picked out a big, green tree.
Driving home, I decided I would leave the tree outside until I was more inclined to decorate it. But in my driveway, I could not open my trunk. The salesman had fastened the bungy cord inside the trunk instead of under the bumper. I called for help. Two hours later, a nephew showed up to save me. He managed to open the trunk and then brought the tree inside for me. I quickly decided on where to put it, and we worked as a team to set the tree in its holder.
Fast forward to the late afternoon of that icy snow day…
In the dim light, I stare into my Christmas tree. Each ornament reminds me of someone or something or somewhere. Even the way the tree tips to one side with the weight of the star reminds me of Christmas Trees Past. It is as though I have created a shrine to ghosts, and now they have come closer.
The dangling piece of ribbon candy beckons me to see my Aunt Ann’s contagious smile as she slides a tray of ribbon candy toward me and gushes about how it looks so festive. We two would shake up all the plastic bottle panoramas to make the snow fall and guess which one would be the last to stop snowing.
The homemade smiling Grinch peeking out of a Christmas stocking ignites Mary’s infectious laugh. A coworker from long ago, she would rent historic homes at which to host cookie swaps. Her brother Michael gifted me with his foreign coin collection. Genuinely enjoyable company.
The dangling donut has me pulling into a parking lot for a break from driving. When traveling with my brother, it was uncanny the way he seemed to know where to find homemade donuts and we shared many a donut over the years. The frosting and colorful sprinkles on the dangling donut remind me of good fun on the road.
There is a stuffed Santa with long white strips of felt for a beard and an embroidered Santa paddling his canoe, gifts to my parents from my cousin Nadine. She went on to become a successful artist, then a successful nurse and then a successful dog groomer, but she never changed from the cousin I knew.
The ceramic donkey from Ecuador and the wicker goose from China conjure my appreciation for serendipity. Who would have guessed these two ornaments were destined to meet in this lifetime? The Mongolian boot and the Ethiopian hut and the drum from Ghana, all remind me I have managed to travel a bit.
The fringed peace sign brings a whirlwind of protest marches, a labor of love. I recall preparing my signs; I see the people who shared their snacks as we marched. Then I remember the night spent on an institution’s laundry room floor and leaving at 6am to hold signs in support of the Massachusetts Bottle Bill. Two of us were left to hold a huge banner over the Mass Pike. Fortunately, we managed to hold on to the banner in the strong wind that morning.
The sparkly slice of pizza lights up my parents’ kitchen, packed to the gills with family in anticipation of another pizza being pulled from the oven. Cookie sheets of pizza, water glasses filled with Carlo Rossi’s Paisano Chianti; and a huge salad bowl that would eventually empty. My mother’s family rarely stopped talking but my father’s family were all good listeners. Loads of smiles and laughter.
The brass outline of a Kronosaurus carries me to the Geology Room where I watched decades of presentations at the Peabody Museum of Archeology. The dangling mouse was a gift from my landlady, Kim, the year my apartment was invaded by mice. Set by the tree are two elves, liquor holders from Jack, a kindly downstairs neighbor. The stuffed snowman, holding red skis, set under the tree, was a gift to my mother at her last Christmas from her personal care attendant, Margaret.
So much of the decorated tree reminds me of my mother. There are decorations she urged me to get, decorations that were my favorites on her tree, decorations she made and the long sparkly red ornament that she won at a pitch party. She loved to decorate her home for all of the holidays so I put up a few decorations around the tree just in case she can see.
Sitting in the darkness and admiring the Christmas tree is what most reminds me of my father. We spent many hours singing Christmas carols and drinking hot chocolate and sitting together in front of our Christmas tree. We would indulge in Sambuca in the late evening after our tree meditations. To this day, Sambuca tastes like Christmas.
Though the pine needles may re-appear one by one through May, I am thankful I put up a Christmas tree this year.
Buy it. Read it. (Or listen to it.) Let me know what you think. –TMLL