Wednesday, 6 January 2021

TAKING DOWN THE TREE: A CHRISTMAS TALE

I don't much like Twelfth Night. It’s the night I take down the Christmas tree, to avoid the goblins. I know in Britain (and Ireland) many people wait until the next day, the feast of Epiphany, to do that. That’s the day the wise men showed up, acknowledgment of which ruins every Christmas pageant any of us have sat through, but I’ll let that pass. But wish I could bring myself to delay, even if only for a day, taking down the tree; this year I heard someone on the radio arguing that trees could remain up until Candlemas, which is the fortieth day of the Christmas season (2 February).

It has been such a maddening year, full of disappointment and sadness. This year’s holiday season took place in the dreary short days and long nights of December, with lovely sunshine on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but otherwise rain and darkness and the promise of another monumental cock-up by the Government That Couldn’t Shoot Straight which would negate the brief glimpse of Johnson’s sunlit uplands promised by the various coronavirus vaccines.

Certainly I found this year’s tree endearing. It was only five feet tall; I snipped it’s top branch in half, as it had extended about 18 inches all on its own. I wasn’t the perfectly balanced and symmetrical creature I saw in other people’s photos, but it stood straight and it seemed to welcome its ornamentation. It was healthy, held its colour, and dropped precious few needles along the way. On dark mornings I would greet it, turn its lights on, and be cheered immediately. In the evenings, I’d turn it on and play some music, maybe sit on the couch and read or just look at it and feel comforted.

On Monday evening, as if it knew what was in store the next day, I came into the living room and caught a burst of firry fragrance, which filled me with nostalgia for the evergreens of my childhood winters, and with hope. Tuesday morning I greeted the tree as if it were a friend about to go to hospital, and there have been enough of them this year. I took the tinsel off in the afternoon, as if to prepare the tree for what was to come, and prepare myself too. Finally, long after dinner, I put on the Emersons playing Razumofskys, went over and removed the ornaments and lights and packed them away. I loosened the screws in the stand, though this tree had stood on its own, small branches down the roots flexing it into place. I apologised, and pulled it out of the stand, realising it still refused to drop its needles, not even as I squeezed it out the front door.

I wasn’t going to leave my tree outside, for some council van to take along with all the other trees. I carried it off into a nearby woods, and found it a spot where it might be able to return itself to the earth from which it sprang, at its own pace, at least enjoying the world outside my living room for a little while. The dog watched without quite knowing what was going on, but sensed enough not to tug at his lead until I was through doing whatever I was doing as I stood there and turned to lead him away. When we got back, the room looked emptier than usual, and this morning there was no scent, no display of green branches, no lights and baubles and tinsel to welcome me into its new day. Maybe Candlemas has something to say for itself after all. I think this tree could have made it all the way to February had I let it try.

 

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