Sued51's Blog











{December 21, 2017}   Quiet Christmas

Tree ornament

Decorated tree

As a child, Christmas was the highlight of my year! My mother was happy for the help when I wanted to decorate the tree or wrap my brothers’ gifts. When I grew up I still loved Christmas, and most often my souvenir from places I visited was a Christmas ornament. I loved that my tree told the story of my life, including gifts from friends and places I had visited. One special year I gleefully decorated my whole big house because my house was on the town Christmas tour.

Then came the death of my father right before Christmas and my broken marriage. I never had children of my own, and after my father’s death, my birth-family splintered. I began living in a tiny apartment; my precious ornaments packed away in storage.

Now I dread it; I endure it. I listen to everyone giddy with their plans; I struggle to buy presents without joy.

 

I know I am not alone in my struggles this time of year so I thought I’d share this poem I wrote just before Christmas became my enemy. It’s the first time I have shared anything in the wake of the loss of my marriage, but after four years I think I am ready.

 

 

Quiet Christmas

It’s a quiet Christmas,

maybe the last.

My husband sleeps in,

as does the sun.

The gray light shuffles

over the cold ground, then sits.

Observing this year’s sparse

offering of snow,

ragged dust tossed over

shivering boney branches

like dull tinsel,

I wonder:

do the trees ache and groan

like my arthritic hands

as I write this,

desiring still comfort

but compelled to move

by an invisible force

that is life.

The cat, content on the couch arm,

the lamplight her sun,

breaths little sighs in rhythm,

my carol for this quiet Christmas.




I have always loved Christmas decorations — their colors, their sparkle! It seemed like I could never have enough…until now. Whatever I have now, has to be enough. In my new small space I don’t have room for a big Christmas tree. This year my ornament collection of over twenty-five years, painstakingly unpacked, displayed, and repacked annually will stay packed away in storage. This year’s “late” Thanksgiving means this Christmas season is a short one, just 4 weeks (though the stores keep trying to make it seem longer) — definitely not worth digging through boxes in storage. Having anticipated this though, my 4-ft tabletop tree has been riding around in my car’s back seat for weeks. But what will I decorate it with? Surely I won’t be buying more ornaments? Imagination needs to be kicked into gear…But I do have something to draw on — a memory of a Christmas long ago…my Christmas in California.As someone born and bred in the Northeast, that was an oxymoron. Christmas is cold, and snow, and evergreens…

Tabletop Christmas Tree

Decorations to come…from my imagination…

That year my father had taken a temporary position in California. Near the end of his career as a marine draftsman, shipyards were closing and the need for ships was diminished, so he had to work where he could to support his family. I was in college, living in the house back home, while he, my mother, and younger brothers were living in an apartment in California. It was semester break and I was flying out to spend Christmas with them. I remember arriving at LAX two days before Christmas and seeing wreaths on the palm trees, thinking, “This is just wrong!” When we got back to their apartment, there was no Christmas tree! I was really disappointed and immediately complained. (I was young and ungrateful…after all, I should have just been happy to be with my family.) It could have been the start of a miserable holiday for everyone, but something wonderful happened. Always wanting to make me happy, my father said, “Let’s see what we can do…”

I followed him outside, not sure what he had in mind. Were we going out to buy one? Nope, he doesn’t have the car keys. Sticking out of the full dumpster outside was the top of a real Christmas tree; someone must have cut it off because the tree was too tall (or the ceiling too short). My dad pulled it out and said, “Here we go!”

I couldn’t help but smile, and I quickly jumped into the game. I pulled out some crushed soda cans…after all they were shiny and colorful! We got creative — using what we had and attaching things to the tree with bread ties my mother had stashed in a drawer. Our ornaments were stick-on bows, and gift tags, MacDonald’s toys, whatever we could find in the house…and we laughed and felt proud of our ingenuity. Charlie Brown had nothing on us!

I wish I had a picture of our “ugly” little tree to post here for you, but I don’t. I can only share a beautiful memory of a tree I will remember forever. A tree that helps me to remember to be grateful.



et cetera
%d bloggers like this: