(A momentary break from my blog journey)
I can’t bear to take down my Christmas tree and this fact consumes my thoughts today. I can’t do it. I still need it. But why? Usually I’m twitching to take it down as soon Christmas is over, in agreement with the adage: “Nothing is as over as Christmas when it’s over.”
Yet this year, I keep putting it off. I told myself and my family it was because of Covid and isolation; that the lights and colors still bring me joy in the darkness, so why not leave it up a little longer?
But it occurs to me that I cling to this particular tree for a different reason: It is because I lost my dear, sweet Mom to Covid last month. This Christmas tree and this loss create for me a memory that I can’t let go, as if in some way it will mean letting part of her go, too.
It was 1:33 a.m on Monday, December 7th when I got the call from her nursing facility. Oddly enough, only moments before, I’d startled awake and looked around the bedroom and thought to myself, Wow, the house is so quiet. Everything is so quiet. Then the quiet was interrupted by the phone. And I knew.
I crept downstairs alone and turned on the Christmas tree lights, soft and beautiful in the dark, quiet house. Then I watched a classic holiday movie filmed when my mother was a young woman: It’s A Wonderful Life. Unable to bear the Uncle-Billy-loses-the money part, I fast-forwarded to Clarence, the angel. In those late night, wee-hour moments, I felt like I was holding Mom with me in the muted Christmas-tree lights and that old, familiar black-and-white movie.
And now long past Epiphany, the usual tree-dismantling day, I keep insisting we don’t need to take the tree down, not yet. Sure, it is dry and drooping and sheds copious needles every day, but for me, its magnificence and solace are undiminished.
The sight of this tree cradles me in a place where Mom is still with me. I know full well the tree is dead and eventually we must remove its decorations and red bows and garlands and lights; that we will have to haul it out back and sweep up the needles in its wake and move the furniture back where it belongs. I know that although I can rationalize for now that the Christmas tree should remain lit and glorious in its corner, this time too will pass.
Soon I will need to make room in that corner and in my heart for the passage of time, because there is no way to deny its momentum. I need to accept the future, to roll forward with it into new seasons. It is a new year in a new time, the beginning of the first of everything I will now face without a mother.
But for now, may I please take just a little more time? The tree is so lovely, still. See? The nights are so very quiet. And I miss my mother.