Friday, January 11, 2008

How do you say "O Tannenbaum!" in Español?

I don’t want to take down the tree. It’s still cold at night, and although the newfangled pre-wired, pre-lighted artificial fir we bought three years ago at Costco (and transported here at great expense) doesn’t give off a lot of heat, I love the way the lights reflect on the tile floors and in the glass of the framed art on the walls. On one side are brass rubbings, souvenirs from the labors of my sister Emily and my father-in-law Hank when both were in England – separate times, separate trips, brought together on a wall in Mexico. And perpendicular to them, a large abstract computer graphic, handiwork of Larry’s brother Jim. All that glass and tile, reflecting the tree.

Many of our decorations didn’t survive. Whether it was the move, the water in the basement or the humidity of the summer – only the fittest came through. Gone the salt and flour ornaments made in the Jackson family kitchen, hmmm, maybe thirty or more years ago. Gone the cowboy boot with Santa popping out that was a staple of the Cobb family Christmas since Larry was a little boy. Intact are the glass globes used as place cards: Christmas dinner, Café Mozart, San Juan Capistrano, 1980 something. Tiena, I still have yours. Do you have mine? Not too many of those couples are still together, but the memories still last on the tree.

As do photographs. Several years ago I discovered the joy of preserving family and friends’ photo Christmas cards by cutting out the faces and putting them in ornament frames, some handmade, some store-bought and elaborate. Every brother and sister, every niece or nephew, each parent is present and accounted for. So there’s always family around us during the holidays, even though they’re hanging from the branches of the tree.

And friends. There’s the Christmas day photo of Zoe and Nash, four-year-old twins just arrived and adopted from Brazil, romping naked on the sand at Capistrano Beach, new daddy Alan picking up clothes scattered on their joyful run toward the sea. My niece of the same age from Alaska, left standing on the beach, scandalized and embarrassed. Zoe and Nash each have two girls of their own now. But there they are – forever four on the tree.

There are dogs and kittys, too. ID tags worn by Velcro the cat, a wooden carving of Britta the yellow Lab, photos of keeshond Rascal, and other pets with their people. Sweetheart Alsatian Lajos is there from Switzerland, Daniel and Carol on either side. We need to get a picture of Kody, even though physically he’s indistinguishable from Rascal. He definitely deserves a branch on the tree.

And there’s us – memorialized through the ages and stages of about forty years together. Bell-bottomed, straight-legged, mini-skirted, skinny, thickening, thinning, long-haired, short-haired, brunette, blonde, platinum. Admittedly, some of those photos get their holiday outing on the far side of the fir. But look hard enough and you’ll find us – hanging out there on the tree.

I don’t want to take it down. But to make the job sweeter I bought a big square basket hamper at the tianguis a few weeks ago – just for Christmas decorations. The storage boxes brought up from the basement disintegrated completely, so our old trimmings will have a new home. The basket is multi-colored and gorgeous. It will have a permanent place under the equipale table in the cupola library, safe from the elements below, and ready to emerge next winter on the day after Thanksgiving. I won’t even have to knock away spider webs and go searching when we’re ready once again for Christmas, and the tree.


Linda said...

How sweet! I could cry! I too loved my Christmas tree back home (in Minnesota) and now that I am here in Mexico Christmas isn't the same. But you have managed to capture a part of Christmas that is magical. Your descriptions of all the ornaments is wonderful. I never wanted to take down my tree either, how I loved the lights on at night in the dark. I so much identify Susan, with your feelings about this special tree.

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