I took my Christmas tree down today. By myself. I really didn’t want to. I quite love the smell of the thing as it sits in the corner, slowly dying, becoming more and more of a fire hazard as the minutes wear on. I love the twinkle of the lights as they blink through the branches and I am comforted by the fact that though few, all of the ornaments are of my choosing. Really, I adore my Christmas trees so much, that I could justify leaving them up through March. But as my dog slipped off the couch and squeezed past browning branches this morning to bark at another dog out the window, I could hear the rainfall of hundreds of needles and knew it was time to give up the ghost on this years’ white fir.
I carefully removed all of the ornaments and laid them out on the two end tables that are currently serving as a coffee table in my living room (I have yet to buy my own furniture, and my Grandma Lou, rest her soul, would be happy to know that I’m getting such use out of her old living room muebles). It’s my final goodbye until next year, this little inventory. I lay them out and organize them, and then carefully wrap them into their respective boxes or acid-free tissue and then carefully organize each, jigsaw-style, into the various receptacles that add further protection from the coming year’s dangers of exile.
When I get to the garland and lights, I try not to think about the mess being made underneath, as I pull the sparkly boa off and listen to more and more needles dropping to carpet below. (If I was smart–and next year, I will be–a plastic tarp would have gone underneath the stand and tree skirt to ease the forthcoming vacuum-induced headache). They shush to the floor with a sound almost rainlike, and I wish for a moment that it could go on forever, a relaxing wash of fir-scented music. But I’m done and the lights are in the box, and the top is going on, and it’s time to pull the regal thing from the stand and carry it down to the dumpster.
In one last torrent of needles, I pull the tree free and make for the door and then down the steps. I’m glad that the complex hasn’t issued restrictions against placing trees by the dumpsters. I’d be given away for sure, because, as I return to my apartment, I see that my tree has hemorrhaged a breadcrumb trail of needles–they lead from a substantial puddle on my doorstep, in an ever-diminishing path of brownish-green to the cold asphalt enclosure that holds the ashbins.
As I re-enter my apartment to survey the mess I must now clean up, the weight of the New Year hits me with force. It’s the absence of the tree that does it. Once it’s gone, the holidays are over and it’s back to real life. No more carol bells or roast beast; gifts are memories, and its time to re-embark on my journey through this world. The New Year has been my deadline for a number of things and today, it’s here, a-rap-rap-rapping at my door. It’s time to give up my aimless wandering, and locate again some semblance of drive. The vacation is over.
I bend down and scrape together fallen needles, making piles that would certainly outweigh my cat, I’m sure of it. Then, when I’ve done my best on hands-and-knees, I begin with the vacuum cleaner. As the remnants are sucked up by cyclonic action, so are the worries and dread of my past year. I lose myself in this task, getting every single last blasted green dart, formulating a plan as I go. “I must quit smoking” I think, and then smile to myself as I reach under the couch with the vacuum extension. I’ve already three days success on that endeavor. “I must find a job” I think, and then smile again, at the prospect of starting new and perhaps finding something completely different and important. “I must write more and record my ideas” I think, and then smile broadly, knowing that I’ve already begun and can be carried on the wings of what has thus far been accomplished.
As I come out of my reverie and turn off the Hoover, I survey my living space, now noticeable uncluttered and neat. The lines on the carpet from the vacuum ease my OCD, and I breath a sigh, happy that this chore is done and has helped to formulate a plan. I didn’t want to take my tree down, especially not by myself. I’m glad, however, that I have. In doing so, I began this year by NOT procrastinating. I began it with a pleasant smell, some hard work and a feeling of accomplishment. Today? A Christmas tree. Tomorrow? The Want Ads.