January 18, 2013

ON THE EDGE: The holidays tree

By J.P. Devine
Correspondent

It's still there. Through all of the rush and clamor, the fiscal plummet, Lance Armstrong's confession, the spilled wine and tears, it's still there.

Behold, in the corner by the window, festooned with tiny white and colored LED lights for all the passers-by to see, der Tannenbaum, the Christmas tree.

She, who seems to grab big chunks of happy times past and hold them closer more and more, doesn't want me to take it down yet. She would like me to keep it up until her birthday, which happens to be today.

This has been her request in years past, but I ignored it and got rid of it. I usually take it down on New Year's Day, to soften the cruel grayness, the frozen face of quite possibly the ugliest and most boring day of the year.

I don't look forward to it, I'll tell you. We keep it in the far back of the house. It's a real trail of tears that requires me to drag it through five doors, through the foyer, the kitchen, the den, around three corners into its storage space, where it spends the rest of the year, naked, unadorned and out of mind.

Along the way I break things, knock stuff down, rip all the mementos off the refrigerator and scratch furniture and Jack the dog. We have a drill where she runs ahead of me, moving valuables out of the way, holding doors open and closing them behind me. But this year, as I geared up to tackle it, I looked up to see in the corner of her eye, just below the tiny flaw in the green, a speck of a tear, invisible to all except those who know her best. She means it this time.

So I'm keeping it up, lights and ornaments and all. I'm keeping it up one more day for her birthday and, I don't know, maybe longer. Maybe this time I'll just keep it up there all year.

It's a fake tree. The others always insist that it's time to buy a real one, but these seasonal whiners never volunteer to vacuum up the needles or keep the water bowl filled. So it's a fake, but a good fake that cost a good piece of change and doesn't need water, so maybe I'll keep it there in the corner.

I'm thinking maybe I'm on to something -- not just a Christmas tree, but an event tree, with something for each occasion. Voilà! The Tree For Life. I'll keep a special large box beside it with the various ornaments.

Next up is Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. I can decorate it with small pictures of famous African-American heroes: Dr. King, Barack Obama, Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes and Dooley Wilson.

For Valentine's Day, I'll dude it up with tiny red hearts and valentines.

St. Patrick's demands floods of little golden harps and shamrocks and pictures of my grandparents who suffered the terrible steerage trip to the New World, to celebrate Christmas in larger type.

I could have colored paper eggs for Easter, surrounded with the sparkling white lights, little flags for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July with more American flags, and sparklers.

Labor Day will be tough. I will have to scrum up some old pictures of John L. Lewis, Joe Hill, Mother Jones, Cesar Chavez, Pete Seeger and the Wisconsin 14.

Next Halloween and Thanksgiving will be a snap. I'll get some of those little chocolate pumpkins and turkeys. And then once again the day it was meant for, Christmas.

And once more, with luck, I'll still be here to put the family collection of ornaments back in place, and she who delights in that holiday, with the soul of a 9-year-old, will be content. I may package this idea, sell it on eBay, Facebook it.

The whole world will soon keep the tree up forever. I'll be lionized as the man who invented the Tree For Life.

No, too much work.

Open the doors, Sweetheart. I'm coming through.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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