In the dark and cold of January, I grow more reluctant each year to take down the Christmas tree. Our household long ago yielded to an artificial tree, since we travel most years; theoretically, we could leave it up all year, and we joke about doing it. Mid-month, however, I begin to feel somewhat foolish about leaving it in place, even as I mourn taking it down.
I love the pristine white glow of the lit tree in a dark room, having learned this reverence for light in northern darkness from my own mother, who learned it from hers, whose long-ago mother no doubt brought this love for light from even more northerly Europe. My older daughter and I bask in its halo of light for a few stolen moments each morning before she fades into the bleak chill for an early bus. My husband and I meet in the pool of light before turning in for bed.
Last week, the balance between clinging to the glow and embracing practicality tipped, and I took down the tree. Over the years, I have learned that the tasks of both putting up and dismantling the tree really fall to me, and have come to appreciate both phases of the task as an occasion for mindful meditation: unwinding the lights I bought at 14, which miraculously still work, I honor my small act of preparing for imagined future celebrations; wrapping and unwrapping each ornament made or purchased or gifted, I recall the grade school friend who made a clumsy heart pendant from salt dough, the family friend, now dead, who celebrated the birth of my youngest with a millennium globe, the kindergartner who glued her small photo to a shiny bell. I ponder how spectacular a tree filled with lights must have appeared centuries ago when humans first created this ritual.
It’s all packed away now, and this morning my child and I sat together, companionable in shadows, awaiting the incremental return of light into our days.
Mary for The Poplar Grove Muse