It’s January 3rd. I am winding down winter break, organizing our new loot, and digging lunchboxes out of my kid’s backpacks while hoping against hope that there isn’t leftover lunch from December 19th still in those environmentally friendly reusable containers. My daughter and I are painting a desk for her room, I’ve reorganized the drawers where we keep the art supplies. Most of the laundry is done, the house is as clean as it needs to be to prevent the spread of major disease but not so clean as to interrupt the healthy transfer of minor germs that build the immune system. My January organization is well underway and I am feeling nostalgic about our past year and excited about the new; except for the dead tree in the corner.
Still lit and covered with memories that we have collected over the last 14 years, it continues to stand atop a trunk in the corner of the living room, a surviving soldier, weary but triumphant at the end of a whirlwind Christmas season. It’s branches are drooping, as if the tree was made of wax and is beginning to melt. Several ornaments have been casually moved further back on the branch to prevent their early demise. The tree has begun to create a natural pine needle mulch for the floor, which is encouraged every time someone walks past or breathes in the general direction of “Old Faithful”.
Driving home from dinner out on Friday night, we noticed a neighbor’s tree laying by the road for trash pick up and my son snorted, “Quitters.” We are not that. We are not Christmas tree quitters. We are the last to leave the party. We are there when they turn the lights on at the bar.
Why hang onto the dead tree? It was dead the day we brought it home and it’s only gotten….more dead. It brought us light and cheer and merriment. It did it’s job and did it well. Putting up a Christmas tree, we built anticipation, created wonder, made memories. Taking a tree down feels like deflating a balloon.
Would an artificial tree solve the dilemma? Or simply postpone the inevitable? We could take it down in February, but risk being like the guy who is still in college after six years without a declared major. Past our prime, overstaying our welcome.
No, it’s best I just suck it up and take down the dead tree. Say goodbye to the crunchy, brittle conifer that held our dreams for a short while. Watch him through the window as he lays on the compost pile to possibly become shelter for bunnies and squirrels. Or, as we ceremoniously did several years ago, let it become the incredibly flammable fuel for a large bonfire that made the fire department show up unannounced.
Next year the struggle will be the same. Different dead tree, same corner. So I’ll raise my glass and give a toast to an inanimate object that buoys my heart and emotions, even if for just a little while. Then I’ll ceremoniously un-decorate and say goodbye.