This is the first year, in the 32 years since I moved out of my parents' home that I do not have a real tree for Christmas. I know, I can hear the collective gasp, but it is a big change for us, and since change has visited my family all around and over and over again these past few years, it just seemed fitting.
Used to be that Christmas just wasn't Christmas until we picked out our big evergreen from the tree farm. The joke in our family was that the tree had to call out to mom, it had to softly, sweetly, beg to be the one; "kill me, kill me," the tree would plead, telepathically of course.But, before saw ever touched trunk, I had the family hold hands while I sang, O Tannenbaum. Seriously, we did this. When they were little, the kids sang along, when they got older they rolled their eyes, when they got even older they hid in nearby trees.
But some traditions must fall by the wayside. This is the first Christmas in many years without our old pets. It is the third Christmas as a fractured family. It is the first year out of the only home my girls have ever known. It just didn't feel right celebrating in the same manner. Where we are now, space is limited, hearts are healing and it was time for something different.
Different came by way of eBay. Our tree arrived a week after the highest bid, shipped promptly in a recycled brown box with our address written in black Sharpie. I was the winner of a vintage, bedraggled, shedding, aluminum beauty, just under six feet tall and just like the one I had when I was four years old.
It was actually fun for my daughters and me to separate the branches according to size and fit them into the ill-fitting holes. It was nice having the old ornaments we had collected over the years, showcased on the sparse, stiff limbs. And, guess what? It sparkles without any lights at all. The truly vintage electric color wheels that spin and change the tree different colors were also a hot item on eBay, but they were out of our budget this year. I do remember sitting fascinated when I was a kid, watching the tree go from red to blue to yellow, while the little wheel went round and round. It was so high-tech back then but now seems sort of homespun.
At the moment, it is a temporary home, where my girls and I find ourselves. It might be a long time before we have a home of our home again. But right now, this place feels heavenly and this cusp we are living on, where the last two of my chicks are poised for take off, is oh so precious to us. It is a girls place here, where pink reigns and silver bangles sit artfully by the kitchen sink. It is a place, decidedly feminine. Our place for now. But isn't everything, only for now?
Some day we, I mean I, (I will have to get used to saying "I") will have a house of my own again. And when that time comes, the tacky aluminum tree will come along. It will share the space with a real tree and be a sparkling reminder of these often trying, oh-so-fleeting, good old days.