Friday, December 30, 2016

A Little Christmas Magic

I have always loved Christmas, especially the lights and the trees. For as long as I can remember, I’d feel a deep sadness as the once brightly-lit houses went dark again, and seeing Christmas trees lying on their sides by the curb for garbage collection was truly depressing.

I still feel that way, but the feeling has been lessened by the fact that for the past 10 years my tree has been fake – I never had to abandon it by the side of the road. Yes, I would complain that it looked slightly anorexic and that you could see through it; but I would console myself with thoughts of being able to keep it up as long as I wanted to and to not have to worry about watering it, or worry about sweeping up pine needles for the next year.

This year was different; this year I had a real tree. I won it, calling in to a radio station at the right time – even though I’d just turned the radio on and missed the announcement for callers; I was calling to make a request (thank you, again, WPLM 99.1 and Plainville’s Boston Tropical and Tree)! It was fun going to the tree lot to pick it out – I knew which one I wanted the moment I saw it, the first one I laid eyes on. Even loading it onto the car was fun (although we had to be told we had it facing the wrong way and needed to turn it around!).

When we put it up, I was in awe. It was beautiful, even without decorations and lights. It was so … full. After the kids went to sleep, I sat down with a cup of coffee and just stared at it for a long while.

Winning something is always fun, but it’s even better when you realize how happy you are with your prize – and I was truly happy with my tree. My daughters were different about decorating this one, too; I think they liked it almost as much as I did. Almost.

The night we decorated it, I did something I hadn’t done in many years: I lay down under it, looking up into its fullness and lights and decorations. When I was a kid, that used to be my favorite Christmas pastime. I would lie down under the tree and just stare up into it and dream happy Christmas dreams. Doing it again brought all of the same feelings of … magic back. Don’t get me wrong - I’m not jaded about Christmas. I still believe it’s the happiest time of year and that everything about it is magical, but after that night I had to admit that maybe some of my original enthusiasm had faded a little.

It happens to the best of us, and it happens because we get older. As children, our only responsibility to Christmas is to just show up. As adults, we are responsible for giving the children the reason to show up on top of everything else we already have to do. With more Christmases under our belts, we’ve had the chance to experience tragedies during the holidays and endure losses that forever change what we considered our Christmas traditions to be. Then we begin celebrating ‘Christmas by comparison’ where we say things like, “I remember when we used to …”

If we are fortunate enough to age past that stage, we begin finding moments of getting that magic back, despite personal losses and the financial concerns that are always exacerbated during the holiday season. That can be caused by many things: a new love, a rekindled relationship, children who’ve outgrown the idea of Santa but created their own Christmas magic, a random act of kindness, forgiveness, the end of a family feud, the birth of a grandchild … or a real Christmas tree.

My tree – and I was constantly talking about ‘my tree’- was that for me. If any of us choose to look back on our past holidays, there will always be one thing in particular that stands out – good or bad. This Christmas it was my tree. My kitchen has the most space in my apartment; there is a corner I call ‘the dead corner’ because it is space, but not functional kitchen space. It was perfect for the Christmas tree (especially one as big as I had this year). My tree was the first thing you saw when you walked into my apartment, and I could sit at the table with my coffee and just look at it every morning. I found myself doing that a lot this season, and on the days when I was worried about bills or whether or not I could provide Christmas for my kids I would find myself just looking at my tree and thinking how beautiful it was.

And then I would feel better.

I had to un-decorate it tonight and get ready to take it outside. It’s only December 29 (actually, it’s the 30th since it’s 2 a.m., but I haven’t gone to bed yet so to me it is still the 29th). Normally I wait until January; I had to make the adult decision that now was the best time, since I had other rearranging around the house to do, and my kids aren’t here.

I hate making ‘adult’ decisions – but that’s another story.

Pulling the decorations off and wrapping them up was sad. I had to use extra strands of lights (even white ones) because it was so full (a problem I was happy to have), and it took some doing to get them all off without hurting myself – did you know that once Christmas trees begin to dry out the needles get extra stabby? I remember that, now.

So now, my tree is naked. And it is still beautiful. And I’m going to hate taking it outside.

- but I am so very grateful I had it.

One thing that we all tend to forget is how powerful our minds are. Once we experience something (good or bad) and have knowledge of what it felt like, we can re-create the feeling again - even after we feel we have lost what caused it.  Our reality is not based on a certain time or event but our experience of that time or event; the fact that no two people perceive a time or event in the exact same way proves that.

When I look back on this Christmas of 2016, the first thing I’m going to remember is my tree, and how much pleasure I got from it. It will always make me smile, and it’s nice to know I have another good memory to add to my list. Maybe later when I’m in a looking-back mood, I will choose a good thought like this to look back on instead of something from that ‘other’ list. Maybe, too, I will carry this good thought with me every day this year.

In the grand scheme of things, something like this can seem pretty small – ridiculous, even. But anything that gives us a reason to smile is never insignificant.

Especially not 'my' tree.