It’s January 1st. Time to strike the Christmas set. Time to strip the house of all of our little gee-gaws and doo-dads — the reindeer mugs, the Christmas Tree candles, the holiday tablecloth, the Christmas cards from our near-and-dear who are scattered hither and yon all over the world. Finally, it is time to take down the tree.
Every year when we take down the tree, I am filled with sadness. There is something so utterly poignant about denuding this beautiful, well — this creature, who has been a most hospitable house guest for the past three weeks. She has silently endured the indignity of being festooned with ornaments and strung with colored lights. She has endured countless hours of my playing the Beach Boys’ Christmas album. She has spread her branches like outstretched arms welcoming our brightly colored packages. She has allowed our cat, Henry, to sleep under her wings, peacefully enjoying her delightful aroma of earth and pine. She has weathered the unending hours of having the fireplace blazing only four feet away, literally sucking the life out of her by depriving her of her moisture. She has beamed her beauty for all, including our little neighbor, Stone, who came over frequently during the holiday season, I suspect, at times, just to feast his eyes on her. But now, it is time for her to leave us.
This year, for the first time, I actually cried as we undressed her. I had thought that this year we would be more lighthearted when it came time to say goodbye. We had made a point this year of spending lots of time with her and enjoying her company. And she never disappointed. So I thought when the first of the year rolled around, we would be able to part company with a sense of completion.
But this is the year that I lost my mother. Whatever that something is we feel when we have to let someone or something go, it was especially hard for me this year. The fact that we had tried so hard to honor her and treat her with the respect and admiration she deserved did nothing to ameliorate the sorrow of her loss. Am I talking about the tree or about my mother? For today, anyway, it feels like it’s all the same. Loss is loss. The harder I try to grab life with both hands and hold on tight, the more I feel it slipping away from me and vanishing into the Great Beyond.
But part of the joy of life, and of Christmas, is that it is not permanent. It has its season, and then it’s gone. But, as with just about anything in life I can think of, it reappears at some point, maybe different in some aspects, but also, thankfully, very much the same in others. Every year I say, “This is the most beautiful Christmas tree we’ve ever had!” — and every year it is true.
So now, I have dried my tears and just about put away Christmas for the year. I will miss our lovely green friend. I will try to remember the parable of “Frosty The Snowman”, according to the Beach Boys: “But he waved goodbye saying ‘Don’t you cry, I’ll be back again some day!'”.