Last night, we took down our Christmas tree. We tend to leave our tree up as long as we can. There’s something about the glow of twinkling lights that warms up a room and makes everything feel cozy and safe.
When we put the tree up, the girls, Neal and I work together. We always do. It’s our family ritual. We put Christmas music on, string the lights, and debate on whether to use fairy lights – my personal favorite – or colorful ones – the girls’ and Neal’s favorites. It’s a battle I lose every year. The girls find fairy lights boring.
Once the lights are strung, we begin to unwrap the ornaments. Each comes with a story that is told in many variations every year. It’s amazing how much history and emotion an item can carry.
When the ornaments are up, we place our favorite angel on top of the tree and flip the switch. We step back, giddy and proud of our handy work, and pause to take it all in. We make hot chocolate and bring out cookies, we sit around our tree and bask in its glow. Let the festivities begin.
When the time comes to bring closure on yet another holiday season, we drag our feet. We debate as to when the tree should come down and take our sweet time. The tree lights are turned on first thing in the morning. The four of us have breakfast, then off they go and as the daylight takes hold, I flip the switch and go on with my day. In the afternoon, the girls come back from school, they walk into the living room and go straight for the switch.
Yesterday, I noticed that our tree was looking sad. The time had come to let go. I brought the boxes up and started taking down the ornaments. I handled each ornament carefully, dusting it, wrapping it, and putting it away. I left the lights for the girls to do. I knew they’d want to be part of this ritual.
All was quiet in the house and I found myself retracing my steps through time, remembering holidays past, people I haven’t seen in a while, my childhood, the first years of my marriage, my last Christmas in Greece, and my first holidays as a newcomer in this country.
The other day, while organizing some photo albums, my daughter looked at some pictures as if for the first time. She then turned to me and said . . . “Wow, you and dad have lived for quite some time. You guys are strange but it’s been quite a life!” Need I say more?
The holiday season – the celebration of lights – has ended, snow has begun to fall and it’s really cold. We’ve entered the darkness of winter, transitioning into the next stage. I don’t know how cold this winter is going to be or how much snow we’ll have this year. I have no idea what challenges lie ahead or what waits for me at the end of this cold, dark period.
The tree is off to the compost pile, the lights are put away and the ornaments are safely tucked in, until next year. Friends are coming to dinner tonight and I have to get ready. The cat is sleeping – what else is new? I have my fuzzy socks on and a hot cup of coffee next to me. I lit a candle while writing this because I love seeing its glow even in the daylight.
Thank you for being here. Stay warm. ♥