The brown needles were needling me. They were also stabbing anyone who walked in stocking feet on any floor in our house. Needles have a tendency to travel.
I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had to take down the Christmas tree.
It was a tiny defeat, for sure. I don’t remember any tree of mine — artificial, live or in some middling phase of its demise — being dismantled before February.
It has become a something of a family joke: "How long is their tree going to stay around? We have a Christmas Tree but they have a January Tree, and Valentine’s Tree and soon my guess is they’ll be working on a Mother’s Day Tree … that’s if the house doesn’t burn down first."
It’s not funny, I know. It could happen. And as someone who unplugs the toaster oven when not in use, I should know better … or at least know enough not to tempt fate.
I often tell people that I’m lazy. But that’s not really true. Sure, everyone is keen on decorating the tree when the spirit of the season is fresh and new but once the bow is off the package, few (compulsive folks not withstanding) are as eager to painstakingly re-wrap the trappings and pack them away.
But I’ve given up on the careful storing of holiday artifacts years ago. Sure, I started out meticulously wrapping each ornament in tissue and separating them with sheets of cardboard, be they delicate glass orbs or layers of felt glued together with pom-poms and sequins.
However, with each progressive year I shave off a few minutes more on my takedown time. This year I broke down and bought an enormous plastic tub – the kind with a snapping lid and festive holiday colors -- and recycled the myriad cardboard boxes, marked "X-Mas" in Sharpie, that have been chasing me from apartment to apartment, home to home, during the last two decades.
I had condensed all the breakables into three smaller boxes within 27 minutes, then jammed the boxes into the storage tub and padded them with the soft, stuffed or impossible to destroy curios.
A few more minutes and the three strands of tiny twinkle lights that had been wrapped around the pine were wrapped (wrist-to-coil action) and stowed with room to spare.
No, it’s not the chore.
It’s just the idea of going to all the trouble — knowing at the outset that the thing you tethered to the top of your car had been happily living a farm-fed life for five to seven years — of dragging a living tree in from the outdoors spending an hour (or seven) getting it positioned straight in the stand (even if you give up and accept its crookedness as a natural quirk) and then putting on it every piece of glitter you’ve collected since your preschool days, forcing you to walk down memory lane for the *mumbles-a-number* time. ... All to have it wither and die in the span of three weeks’ time.
After having gone through all that, I want to HAVE this tree for longer than a few weeks. I want to read by its light on the Epiphany and hang hearts on its limbs for Valentine’s.
It seems so simple to me: I just want to enjoy every brown, crinkling sap-oozing day for as long as I can.
I want to vacuum up needles for an eternity.