No holiday satisfies or disappoints quite like Christmas. In the Pacific Northwest, December is a dark, charmless month. This year, I announced November as scotch month and December, the month of brandy. The month of all things “ch,”—cheese, chocolate, champagne—a cup of cheer.
Getting the tree up is always harder than it needs to be. The place we normally get ours hadn’t got their shipment, and only had strange-looking trees. We tried a U-cut farm where you borrow a saw and trudge out on your own to cut one, but those had been picked over too. By the time we found one, the kids had also lobbied for a small tree for their rooms, and I was angry with Dawn about consenting, so we drove home wet and cold with three trees and the windows all fogged up, mom wedged in the back between the kids, needing to find a rest room.
We picked Sunday to get the tree over Saturday, even though Sunday was forecast for rain and Saturday would have made a lot more sense. But on Saturday, we argued and fought for most of the morning and agreed Charlotte’s behavior didn’t warrant getting a tree. I even threatened to get one without her, but that seemed too cruel, to deny her the expectation and memory of us all getting one together. By the late afternoon she’d apologized, but it wasn’t sincere. Mom said it wouldn’t be right to bring a tree into a house with such bad energy. And there was some spirituality in that, at least.
The problem with getting a tree when it’s raining is the tree comes into the house wet. That didn’t bother me, but Dawn worried it would be unsafe to hang the lights. Someone suggested we use a blow dryer to dry it. We put the lights up anyway, but then argued if they were outdoor, or indoor lights (and then I wondered how you even tell the difference). And I started to not care about getting shocked, anyway.
Mom and I went to the other room with the fire, but returned to the den with the others when it was time to decorate the tree. Charlotte seemed to really enjoy it, and I joked she wasn’t doing it right and moved a few ornaments an inch or two from their original spot, so as to not gang them together too tight.
And by the end of the night, all about the house was the soft glow of dioramas and happy figurines with twinkling lights, memories of the places we’d been, the gifts we’d been given, the memories waiting there, to be made once again.
The weather looked bad for the week, so I drove in each day. Sitting at the traffic light behind the wheel, I got a line for a poem and worked on it a bit when I got to the office. “When the world has lost all its wonder.” When the stars lose their luster, and you stop even seeing them twinkle. I was able to set up the bad feeling, but not able to pay it off at the end with any advice on what to do.
In the early morning I sat by the tree in the den and noticed one of the figurines was from the Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion, so lifelike in his expression, the paws set against his cheeks with that look of worry. It was from that year Lily was really into the movie, and we bought a set of four. Dorothy was nearby too, but the others had gone missing. And sadly, I didn’t feel it the same as I used to.