I can’t take it. Down.
I don’t do this voluntarily. I have to be shoved into it like a kid in the deep end. My entirely nonreligious Christmas tree goes up in early November because I have the patience of instant coffee and comes down sometime in January. And only then when it absolutely must. This year, my tree’s demise came early, on but the 3rd day of January. So soon. I’d planned on at least a solid week of procrastination, at bare minimum long enough for the neighbors walking by to judge. I didn’t want this. I was forced.
At some point in mid-December, I noticed my tree was violently flashing. This concerned me. It was either a bad strand of lights or a possession of some kind, you can guess the likelier option. I’d never seen a string of twinkle lights blow out before, but I knew enough to tell Alexa to “turn off tree” immediately. Upon inspection, a strand of lights, some five or six years of age, one by one had blown out, leaving gray, cloudy bulbs left as evidence. It being so early in the season, I did what any holiday-loving human being would do. I bought four more boxes of lights to replace the fallen strand and went about my cheerful season.
Then, this morning, while catching up on emails and Facebook group management before sunrise (I am who I am), I saw it again. The flashing. The death rattle. Another strand had crossed over, gone to meet its sister on the other side of the recycling bin. Perhaps it read the news today? I don’t know.
It’s January 3rd for goodness sake. I can’t replace a strand now and still hold my head high on Twitter! I knew, I knew it was the end for me and my tree. It all happened so fast, I didn’t even have the chance to take one last look, to say goodbye. I removed the deceased, and figured I might as well continue my soul-shredding task, no sense prolonging it now. My chest felt heavy. My coffee grew cold. That’s a lie, I drink iced coffee all year, it was already cool.
One by one, the strings of lights released their grip on the artificial white branches of the six foot fake tree I stole from work in 2016. The fronds made horrible sounds as the lights peeled away. No one involved was having fun.
Next came the great boxing. The shabby resting place that lives on a shelf in my entryway and has been taped and retaped more times than I ever thought it would handle, honestly. Each piece of the tree was then carefully removed from its position on the main pole, smooshed down for space conservation, and nestled in its cardboard coffin hopefully organized by size for ease of re-assembly come November.
God. November. I have to live ten long months with the gorgeous glow of my favorite lamp. How she illuminates my home and brings me joy along with decent selfie lighting. Sure, September and October are a comfort, Halloween accouterments plying my soul with their macabre whimsy. But the demolition of my tree signifies that we’re now in the themed decor-free section of the year. A sad time, coming off four months of precisely the opposite. What, do you think I decorate for Valentine’s Day? Are you insane?
No, there’s nothing now. Nothing but an empty hole in my heart and in front of my living room windows, a void where there used to be majesty, and now remains only shards for vacuuming up. The cat’s been asleep all morning. She doesn’t know her sparring partner has gone away. I haven’t the heart to tell her. How she’ll mourn. We both will.
All I have left to show for the holidays now are three remaining chocolate covered peppermint sandwich cookies from Trader Joe’s and my candy cane scented natural deodorant. Trifles! I want my tree! I want my glowing comfort! I want a world that accepts my need to light my house with nothing but delicate twinkling strands all year long. I want the warm cast of an all-white, lit-in-gold faux arbor to mimic the fireplaces of old and toast the depths of my frigid pirate heart. I ask so little, and am yet left in darkness! Hell is overhead lighting in a Brooklyn apartment. It retains the charm of a dentist’s office, I’ll not suffer it.
This is the hardest day. I know I’ll wake up tomorrow and feel hope again. I might even enjoy sitting on the couch, eventually. For now, my only task is to feel this sadness, to express it. Bottling it up like so many (so many) empty champagne bottles from New Year’s Eve sitting in a pile by the door serves no one. Better to feel this, to process. To acknowledge that while my favorite foliage now lays dormant for most of the year as is its habit, I know I’ll be slicing through the box’s Target brand packing tape with kitchen scissors once again before long. Until then, thank you Tree, for bringing so much joy and wattage to my living room, and indeed, to my life.