|Squeakers will miss the box.|
I tore down Christmas early and with rather more enthusiasm than was necessary this time around, starting the week leading up to the grand new year. I pulled ornaments off the tree, letting them remind me of places we'd been, from Yellowstone to Jamestown, and boxed them up. Somehow I ended up with a small box left over, empty. Perhaps in my zeal I packed the balls and state-sponsored baubles and artsy cultural memorabilia a tad too tightly. They'll jostle against one another more roughly than usual in the dark of the closet awaiting next year's light. Hmph.
I got down to the bare essentials well before New Year's Eve, taking down the advent calendar with its wooden twinkle-light that had been tucked into the Dec 24th pocket for too long and the hanging decoration of Santa Claus rising out of, or being sucked into, a chimney that I made in TOPS so long ago. Taking down from around the house all the greens and reds and joy of the season. Left with nothing but the tree and its lights and the paper angel atop it that one of the boys crafted in preschool. How many years ago must that have happened?
Then I realized that the fancy Christmas kitchen towels would have to be washed before they could be packed away and laundry day, as it happens, is today. And so the lit tree remained for the remainder of the year, ever so much lighter without all the baggage, begging me to remove the angel off its head. But I can't reach the angel. And so it remained.
Today, I pulled the lights. Unwound them again and again and the final string that tangled at the very tip top, when yanked good and hard, sent the paper angel floating to the floor. Fitting.
Once the box, long ago torn in two and taped up separately to make for tree hauling into the attic an easier experience (we're getting older these days), is brought down and dropped dully onto the carpet, I'll say, "Boys, tear down that tree." And they'll do it. And we'll put it all away wondering who will be here with us next year. We started at five and are now at four, the oldest having flown the nest. One day there may only be two--all the parenting done. And another day long, long after that, perhaps only one. And the tree may not go up at all then. The angel may be taken out either way and cried over.
All this ritual is meant to make our lives richer, to give them meaning, but the whispered message is the passage of time and the droning, on and on, of change that never changes. Not really. And as I stand in the open doorway, looking out into the neighborhood of tightly packed homes, our sad attempts at greenness, feel the warmth of a Florida January on my cheek, the last whiffs of pine flit past me, reminding me I still must take the nearly dead wreath off the wall, twist the evergreen branches out of the wire and dump them into the mulch bin. Crows caw from the trees, shadows of ibis dart across the lawn. A slimy frog snuggles deeper into its dark refuge under a bench.
A new year has begun for those of us who track the ceaseless turning and circling of the earth. But I know the truth--that I am small and insufficient to the task of holding the universe together.