December 22, 2011 —
When I was growing up, my parents and I went out in our yard to cut down our Christmas tree every year. This made sense because I grew up in the middle of the woods. (I have memories of trudging though the snow and it being very, very cold.)
The trees were usually of the Charlie Brown variety; thin but very pretty. We decorated them with ornaments collected over the years and colored lights while we listened to Christmas music. (Usually “The Nutcracker,” but in full disclosure I also really liked the “All-4-One Christmas Special.”)
Currently, the trees outside my office are lined in white lights, and almost every time I step out onto the street I am surprised at how good it looks. I often stop and take in the view of the whole stretch of trees down Madison Avenue. (It’s kind of amazing what a couple thousand small white lights can do.)
This year I bought a tree at a deli on University Place and carried it home over my shoulder. Walking down the street with tree in arm, I felt many people smile at me. I smiled back. The holiday cheer was actually palpable and it’s nice; the city isn’t always so kind.
Up in our apartment on first try, the tree falls over. We stand it up again, but there is an errant branch that is throwing off the balance of the stand. Eventually we cut it off with a serrated kitchen knife. It feels a bit silly, but it’s a small branch, so it works. (And also serves as a good reminder that my hand saw is still packed up somewhere, or lost I suppose.)
With the branch cut off, the tree stands tall. Emily and I stand back to admire it, briefly, as she has friends coming over and I’m running out to go to a birthday/holiday party. So for tonight, the tree stays bare. We put the star on top as I am running out the door. We make plans to decorate the tree sometime in the coming week.
Unfortunately, I get really busy at work (Sundance crunch) and she ends up doing the bulk of the work. My nostalgic All-4-One tree decorating memories will have to wait until next year to come forward into my consciousness.
Emily’s company holiday party was last Thursday night at our apartment and by then the tree has been transformed; lights and ornaments twinkle as the tree stands proudly in all of its glory. I position myself near it, enjoying the company of old friends and think about the life of the tree.
In a few weeks, the journey for this fellow will be over. He will be (albeit gently) tossed out onto the street with his colleagues. I always find that image to be sad—a city block full of fallen trees. Many of them still with tinsel clinging to their branches.
My grandmother had a mini fake tree that she kept in her basement, adorned with ornaments all year round. It made decorating really easy as she would just bring it upstairs. Once I came upon it in June and as a small child I wondered why it didn’t look as special as it did during the holidays. I worried that the next year it would have lost some of its magic.
But I remember once it was upstairs, plugged in and surrounded by family it was transformed. And with it, my idea of what was actually important about the holidays.