(Published originally on Jan 7, 2007 in the Gary Post-Tribune)
The only remnants of the holiday season are a few pieces of fudge (that may exist no longer by the time I finish writing this), a few leftovers in the fridge, the wreath on the door, and one forgotten nativity scene and one I have left out on purpose (it is new, and so beautiful).
My husband still contends that the holidays are not over until after the Super Bowl, but for me, the removal of the tree signals the end of the season. And, this year, the end came almost as abruptly as it started, with a mid-week vacation start and a hastily-planned Solstice Bonfire.
With two-day’s notice, we asked people to join us on the Solstice, luring them with chili and cornbread and the promise of a fire. And then it rained the entire day of the party and we were uncertain that the skies would dry up in time for us to light the fire we promised. But then a former Boy Scout (whose words and face once graced these pages a few times a week) showed up at the door with suggestions of ways to get that sucker lit.
It was a fine night, a fine impromptu party, and we continue to find mud in strange places in the house as a result of it. The solstice passed and it was time to consider purchasing gifts that should have been purchased weeks before, and preparing menus that should have been prepared weeks before, and then the shopping for the food I would cook, and then there was the cooking I actually did.
And then Christmas passed and my husband and I toiled for a day to finish a bedroom downstairs, the true gift to the family this holiday season allowing all three girls to have rooms of their own. And when that project was finished, I turned my attention to a service project at my church which took more energy than I thought I was offering—some of it psychic, some of it spiritual, most of it physical. And then it was New Year’s Eve and we went to church again for a meditative service and a potluck dinner and rounded out the evening with friends we just don’t see often enough.
And then it was New Year’s Day, and time to take down the tree and all the other decorations and I didn’t expect to feel so sad about it, but I was. Suddenly and without a sense of the why or the wherefore, I was downright blue about the whole mess of it. I kept getting sadder and sadder until I started poking around in the tree to find out if there were any rogue ornaments left hiding in the branches. And that’s when it hit me. As my hands glided through the branches, I realized I had missed the tree. All the other activity had kept me from being anything but tangentially a part of the tree decorating. And I missed it.
It was a good tree, if perhaps a little anorexic (which explains its inability to stand up straight). Its’ needles were soft and its aroma subtle. I wish I’d known it better; had taken the time in the midst of the doing to pull out the Lenox dove ornament and the “our first Christmas” ornaments, and the other ones that mark our time together.
I snapped out of my blue mood when I saw how lovely my house can be, when it is clean and everyone’s in bed and I finally have time to sit and reflect on how I may have missed the tree, but I didn’t miss people who came for a fire, or Christmas dinner, or rolled paint on walls in a church basement or hosted us when we toasted the New Year.
I may have missed the tree, but I didn’t miss the rest.
It sure is hard to stay blue when you remember to be grateful and present.
(For a whole different take on not taking down the tree, read this from Lizard Eater. Then bookmark her page.)