Someone pressed the accelerator on Advent and did so without my permission. I thought that I would find more time in each day and to my dismay, time has slipped away at an increasingly furious pace.
November followed the splendour of October and arrived with its shades of grey. As the gloom grew to an intolerable level, I erected the tree. It illuminated the increasing darkness that daily ate the light. I told myself this is a socially acceptable act, because it only the lights were on it. It functioned as a tree shaped lamp until December delivered unto us all of the ornaments. Box after box of stories in ornament form are resurrected from storage — items created, collected, and carefully kept. Each one tells of a time, a trip, a memory, a person, or a place. Having had no past worth bringing into the future, I have done all I can for my own children to build a present worth savouring and a past worth remembering.
The Christmas tree has continued to be communal; a time of melancholic recall of who we were before; an annual pilgrimage into the past. Bigger hands carefully hung crafts created by their younger selves. Each brought me items that they had gifted me. It appeared important that I be the one to put them on the tree. There remained an unspoken sobriety to this ritual. It is as if each one of us felt the years fall upon us as we hang our own story all around us — the story of of us.
When we first became a family I purchased a star made framed with golden wire and built with iridescent mother of pearl. It is as old as us and like us, it is fragile, beautiful, and a crowing pinnacle of our collective past. Our youngest wanted to place it on the top of the tree beyond reasonable reach and I responded unreasonably. It was, I reasoned, too fragile for her (sometimes clumsy) hands to handle. Tensions built and B intervened. I left the room because I could not stay for crescendo or the crash.
That night I apologized. In the dark I felt the weight and the why. I did not want anyone to smash the past I had so carefully curated, fought for in the present, and held in trust for the future. I felt the weight of weaving and leaving a story that they can hold, not only in their hearts but also their hands, long after all my November’s have passed — preferably not smashed and intact.
At present, the star still sits safely on the tip of our Christmas tree. Even if it someday it gets smashed, we can still be. Symbols are a representation of reality but not a replacement for it.