Monday, December 12, 2011
"To Trim or Not to Trim"
"To Be or Not to Be," declared Hamlet.
“To Tree or Not to Tree,” I responded. It was the wee, pre-coffee hours of Sunday morning.
Before my mind could turn from treeing to being, I hauled it to the basement for three large boxes containing tree, ornaments, and too much junk. Deep down, I dreaded this deed and chose a systematic and thoughtful method to the task. The ornament boxes would wait while I assembled the tree. It took a hammer and some muscle to bend the pieces to balance the tripod on which this tree stands. The only alternative would have been roping it to wall or furniture. The harder the task, the more determined my effort.
Sounds of Christmas music, with the snap, crackle, and pop of old family vinyl led me to a place of nostalgia and mindfulness. I found myself in a sing-a-long with Glen Campbell, Emmylou Harris, Elvis, and others. It buffered my relationship with the present for a short while. While advisable to always live in the present--out in the real world where all is new each day--a temporary escape strengthens my “now.”
With the tree up and shaped, I delved into the ornament box with a growing enthusiasm. The Christmas Ball wiggled, knowing it always goes first. The only ornament with a permanent nail is a work of art created by my sister Mary. Notice the perfect needlepoint in the picture to the right.
“To Keep or Not to Keep,” rattled my skull.
Four piles formed: ornaments from my youth; from college to present; basic colored balls to reflect the lights; and trash. Memories flooded and Ray Conniff’s take on “White Christmas” helped this be an easy and rewarding system. Every ornament on the tree tells a story: a glittery, octagon-shaped ball made from Christmas cards by my great-great aunt; childhood art projects though the generations; gifts from dear friends; reminders of vacations, loves had and lost, colleges and places I adore. “I'm dreaming of a white Christmas/Just like the ones I used to know/Where the treetops glisten and children listen/To hear sleigh bells in the snow/I'm dreaming of a white Christmas/With every Christmas card I write/May your days be merry and bright/And may all your Christmases be white” sounded inspired.
The antique round table that relocated for the holiday season folded down in size and shape to provide an extension to my tree that honors my little brother. Jim was a “Trekkie,” a proud and loyal Star Trek fan. Collectors leave Star Trek toys and items untouched in the original packaging. As a teenager Jim’s wall was covered with Star Trek spaceships, figures, and toys safe behind a plastic window and surrounded by a cardboard background. A punch hole in the cardboard allowed a pin to provide the necessary support to display.
“To Remove or Not Remove,” I questioned the boxed ornament.
With a wink to Jim’s spirit, I pulled out the ornament and set it next to its original box. After all these years, Commander Data deserved to come out of the box, I said. And I heard Jim’s response: a manly giggle. The lights ran out before reaching the top. Rather than run to Mom’s for another strand, I topped the tree with a white angel given to me by a friend years ago. The angel's been there before but this year it also reminded me of Jim. My friend loved him, laughed (and laughed and laughed) with him. Warm thoughts of an old friend and Jim’s bright smile illuminate things up there.