A Tree to Remember
At the time, I felt proud and childlike and utterly cheerful to plug in the new two-foot-tall artificial Christmas tree with multi-colored lights pre-strung—just slide it out of the box and plug it in—and skirted with a checkered flannel pillowcase hiding three plastic feet. I hung fragile little ornaments I keep in an egg carton. This lighted loaded twig brightened my living room, a quiet understated new friend demanding nothing of me, content to glow and keep me company. This diminutive fir was my tree, chosen by me, placed by me, decorated by me, itself a decoration to brighten the cave of my new circumstance, a whispered declaration of my devastating deliverance and my intention to start a noble new life. And every year that tree went up with the same friendly thrill each day after Thanksgiving, and came down each New Year’s Day, when I felt a little sad to put my colorful companion in a dark cramped box in a dark cramped closet. But the tree emerged every year and twinkled and cheered, until this year when only the bottom lights lit up even after an hour’s effort to replace each darkened bulb and minute fuse with no success. Suddenly I was through with this tree. It would not light up. It could not support all my heirloom ornaments. Suddenly I did not care much for it anymore. My feelings switched surprisingly speedily from the positivity of a cute bright creature that liked me and shone for me and told me I was not alone—they morphed into a desire for a grander and taller and twinklier tree, a tree with room for all my heirloom ornaments, a tree erected to my own height, a tree no longer tying me back to that day I ventured coerced into the frightening world of middle-aged isolation, a tree grand enough to fill my empty spaces and match my own branching growth. The tiny half-functioning tree of my transition simply and suddenly no longer represented what five years of heartache struggle pain and ungiving-up dogged slogging and straining for hope had begun to affect in resilience of spirit and sturdiness of mind and expansiveness of hope and the leaving behind of old habits and old wounds and old wounding memories, of dissipated hopes and disabled dreams—a new and grander taller fuller roomier brighter tree was called for.
Five years. Five is not much of anything, until you realize that 5 years translate into 60 months and 240 weeks and 1,680 days and 40,320 hours and two million four hundred-nineteen thousand two hundred minutes. Five years may be only one-half of ten, but five years can be a lengthy long time. And each of those five Christmases unearthed my heirloom ornaments. My new tree will hold them all, with room to spare. Twelve stuffed white squares with cross-stitched reindeer. Polish Pysanky eggs with painstaking purple and yellow patterns. Japanese Temari spheres of geometric string. Mary and the Child scrolled into an olivewood disc from Jerusalem. The head of a Chinese dragon gifted by Te Jui “Jerry” Lin as thanks for helping him sometimes in law school. Paper clips, blades of an ancient grandmother’s crocheted green and red ice skates. Gnomes with bulbed noses and fluffy beards and tall plaid caps. A German pickle portending a bonus gift for the first child to find it on the tree. Manuel and Maria island of Madeira dancers in traditional cap and costume. A clear big bauble covered with myriad wood buttons. Christmas clad teddy bears. Glittering red balls. At 80, Mom handed me a little framed baby picture ornament, telling me I am a gift to her still. These all came to me from my mother and my daughters and my sisters and my friends and are all dear and meaningful and hearkening to the cheer of childhood and the charity of Christ and the hope of tomorrow. My new tree embraces them all. And the lights are so prettily richly colored and cast a still symphonic rainbow of red blue green orange purple brushed in soft aurora reflection on the floor.
Roger Evans Baker is a municipal attorney, homebody poet and essayist, and amateur naturalist. Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road and A Time and A Season. Rabbit Lane tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit. A Time and A Season compiles Roger’s poems from 2015-2020, together with the stories of their births. The books are available in print and for Kindle at Amazon. See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.