Saturday, December 12, 2009

Oh Tannenbaum

I smell like Christmas tree. I know why. I'm not sure exactly what just happened but I was admiring my Christmas tree and I started sobbing over it. I hugged it. It may or may not have hugged me back. And so, right now I smell like Christmas tree.

I need to explain this tree. It is gigantic. Huge. Enormous, astounding, beautiful, gargantuan, hypnotic and completely impossible. It is 10 feet tall. It is not a fake tree. It is the biggest tree I have ever bought, ever.

The boys and I went out last night to our tree place, the place where my mom and I used to go pick out trees. The boys do it much differently than my mom and I did. My mother and I would survey the landscape, assess the trees, heft them out of their resting places. We took turns holding and spinning them judging size, shape and breed. We pulled the branches to see how many needles fell. It was a process. It was important.

The boys are small men and they shop like men shop. Christmas tree shopping with them is no quest. We need a tree. We go to where the trees are. We find a tree. We pay for it. We bring it home. It is not the journey I treasured with her. I bring them anyway hoping to make an imprint of what a family does. To their credit, they have managed to chose our perfect tree every year...each one in record time.

This year was much the same with them. I almost had to drag the oldest, who from now on shall be named Thing 1, out the door to go. He had been playing outside all afternoon; hard work, that. All he wanted at 5:30 at night was TV and dinner and bed. He is nothing but a man in miniature at times. Youngest, Thing 2, saw the adventure of it. He helped me coax Thing 1 off the sofa and we were out.

This will be their first Christmas morning with me at home in two years...three? Usually they're in Florida with the outlaws. Usually I don't mind that. This year is different. I will get to why later. So, I went all Griswold with the lights in the front yard this year. We all agreed to get the biggest tree for inside too. Because they're home this year. That is important.

So, the place, the hardware store with the best Frasier Firs in town, had the 8-10 foot ones on sale. They were selling for just five dollars more than my regular sized trees. There was this one tree leaning cooly away from the crowd on the chain link fence. They loved it. It did look nice, but it was too big for me to pick up. How could I even ever so briefly spin and toil over a tree I couldn't judge properly? Then the tree guy came and lifted it. They were captivated. I was captivated. None of us could stop staring. It was the perfect tree. And for only $5 more than I had come to spend?...How could I resist? I was mesmerized. I kept thinking, "There's no way in hell I can afford to light this damn thing but I have to have it. I can't leave without it."

Now after my effort and the much needed help of able bodied neighborhood children it stands in our living room. And I am amazed by it even without any lights. I went all Griswold on the outside of the house this year, remember? Ran out of lights for a tree. Note to self: get more lights. Anyway, I walked by it's unlit glory tonight and stopped and stared. And began to sob.

Because this ten foot behemoth desperate to scrape my vaulted ceiling is a metaphor. It is the elephant in the room. It is a monument to the crazy, impossible turn my life seems to have taken. It represents my mother's death, X's illness, my immediate family's turmoil, my personal struggles with whether I want to hide or be known. It stands in the face of those things and shouts magnificence both despite and because of them. Love. Death. Life. Passion. It says, "I am beautiful. Live for today for tomorrow we shall die. I am exactly the right thing for you. Take a chance." Because it said those things to me, I had to take a moment with the tree. I had to hug it and cry and be thankful for my life. As incredible as my life seems sometimes, this is who I am. Everything is possible. For me the tree is a metaphor for those gigantic possibilities.

As my children once said, "Cherish the moments." Granted, they said that when their cousin gastronomically exploded in her carseat during a small road trip and their Aunt was having a minor meltdown about it...but they were wise beyond their years (and the comment was hilarious at the time).

I wonder what the tree will say when it's lit and decorated.

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