Sunday, January 04, 2009

A Personal Matter: Won't Let Go ... Of the Christmas Tree

Back in Romania, we decorate the tree on Christmas Eve, December 24. That's the tradition, and it has, to this day, seldom been corrupted by the Westernization of the country, and the consumerism that pushes Christmas to be ever so early.

One of my fondest memories about Christmas is when my sister and I were decorating the tree, on Christmas Eve, with (American) Christmas cartoons playing on TV. The parents were making the house smell good, with all the cooking, while we were listening to carols and The Chipmunks while putting the lights on and the thread through the ornaments to be hung.

I promised myself that unless I have Alzheimer's or I am completely immobile and I cannot make decisions for myself, I will always have a Christmas tree, and my fridge will always be full for Christmas. I don't care if I am 100 (so help me God!), or have no guests one year, I will have a tree and plenty of food and drinks in the fridge.

A tree is 'home' to me. It's not only fun to decorate it and make it my own (lately, my trees have been mostly purple and silver), but it brings up all the good memories of Christmases passed, of good and bad years alike. It's like reading a cherished diary, only easier. More visual.

I realized this year how personal a tree is, to all of us who have them. I made a purple and silver tree - my favorite colors. Mom made a blue tree - her favorite color, of course. My sister and her family made an all white tree - it's what we each like. It's what we think "Christmas" is ; what we think makes us happy and calls our name. It's a personal matter, as all important things in life should be. And for me, along with purple and silver, it'll just be ... one extra week : I just want it to last longer! So, I am keeping the tree up!

The Christmas tree I have every year helps me not only remember that it's a holiday, and a new year, and that I am reaching a milestone, but it also helps me connect with my past, and for lack of it (sometimes), it helps me feel "at home". When I look at my tree, every day, I see all the times Andy and I put our trees up in our parents' home, I see my parents cooking the Christmas dinner, the carolers at the window, my childhood, and I am overwhelmed by this sense of "safety" like no other time in the year. It makes me come home - which I so need it.

And thus it's so painful to take the tree down. I'll take my tree down once again late, maybe next weekend. Because for one more week, I want to feed off my memories of Andy and I singing carols and hanging lights ... For one more week, I want to hold on to the feeling of belonging. And being loved. I want to feel home. For one more week.

Maia (my mother's mom) once told me that I threw a fit when they had to take down my very first Christmas tree (I was 9 months old), so they had to buy an artificial tree and keep it decorated till Easter, till the frenzy of the Easter Bunny made me forget about Santa and I was OK with them getting rid of the tree.

A little bit of that is still left in me, somewhere. Most kids have a favorite blankie to feel home. I have my Christmas tree.

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