O Christmas Tree

This is the time of year for traditions, yes? Either ones slavishly followed or gleefully ignored, fondly remembered or decidedly dreaded. For me, putting up a Christmas tree brings up a mixture of feelings.

First off, I always feel like I have to tell people, right after I say I have a tree, “Not like I’m Christian or anything.” Because I’m not. But a tree seems to be THE symbol for the holiday, though as I mentioned once before here, it and so many other things connected with Christmas are really pagan. But I’m not a pagan either. I’m a…hmm. Well, let’s not get into the details of exactly what I am, from a spiritual or any other perspective.

But I do love my tree. And the various traditions and evocations connected to it span my lifetime. With my earliest days, the tree meant some Charlie Brown-like pathetic example of an evergreen that my father brought home. We decorated with big colored lights and tinsel and garland – decorations I now reject. No, I’ve gone the simpler route championed by an ex: small white lights, no tinsel, nothing ostentatious. She also got me on the kick of cutting my own tree, a tradition the Fex and I followed when we were in CT (with my father and me going out together: I picked, he cut),  abandoned in Chicago, but that I resurrected this year.

This year. An odd holiday season, this. I suppose divorce always brings up thoughts of, “Well, this is the first time I’ve done _____ alone in ___ years.” 12 in my case – 12 years since I’ve been alone at Christmastime. The holiday was especially secular with the Fex, with her being Jewish. But she indulged me the tree – pagan and all – and actually did a good bit of the decorating with me. And we hung up stockings and carried out other holiday traditions by ourselves when we were in Chicago – raviolis on Christmas Eve, movie on Christmas Day.

(Though there was that first Christmas we went back to CT for the holiday, when she had just found her birth father [grrr…] and she took me to his temple on Christmas Day, since it happened to be a Saturday. And the promised short service dragged on for two hours and the rabbi gave a decidedly anti-Christian sermon (or whatever the hell you call it) and he seemed to be looking right at me and I wanted to scream, “But I’m not a Christian!” He knew differently, though, that I was, even if I wasn’t. I bet I can safely say that was the worst Christmas Day of my life. And maybe the beginning of the end…)

Ready for its closeup

Anyway…when it came time to trim this first tree alone in 12 years, I was not alone. I turned back to a one-year tradition of my past: inviting friends over to help me decorate it. We were a small group last week, but everyone got into the spirit of the thing and the tree turned out great and we ate well afterward. And when they left, I carried on another old tradition: With all the other lights off, I removed  my glasses, savored a last sip of wine, and admired my tree. Glowing white lights, now pleasingly fuzzy with the specs cast aside. A wide range of ornaments: from the homemade pipe-cleaner ones crafted on that first tree-trimming gathering, to the glass ones passed on from my grandmother, to the souvenir ones I’ve acquired on many of my trips (NM, Bermuda, Canada). To the ones the Fex unfailingly bought me every year, Hallmark ornaments of various themes. This year, we kept the romantic ones – “Our Christmas Together” – in their boxes.

Lights and glasses off...

This tree isn’t the largest I’ve ever had, or the most decorated. Odds are, no one else will see it, except for my tree-trimming elf helpers (and maybe my mother). And on one level, it’s a little sad to spend so many nights alone staring at it before I go to bed. But there’s still comfort in having it here, a tradition continued, a reminder that life goes on, no matter what calamities strike. I like that.


~ by mburgan on December 11, 2010.

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