My Christmas tree fell over yesterday.It's perched a bit precariously, by three plastic legs loosely pegged to a spindly base, on top of a little table that's just wide enough.
I'd stayed up far past my bedtime, just after 2 a.m., the night before trying to fix my scanner — and that is not code for "drinking spiked egg nog and crooning, 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' in perfect harmony with a tall, handsome man in an ivory cable-knit turtleneck sweater," as much as I wish it were — which left me groggy and a little out of sorts.
For a four-foot tabletop tree, it packs a sparkly, festive punch. Every light twinkles; every ornament has a story. Perched precariously, yes, but pretty. Maybe the danger makes it all the more beautiful. The scanner, finally fixed after hours of finagling, and my tiny tabletop tree were intertwined by fate. Fate and power cords.
I wanted to move my printer into the other room so I could watch daytime TV while I scanned receipts. My life: so, so glamorous. I thought it would be a fun trick to unplug it without moving any furniture or checking any of the other plugs. I tugged at the scanner's cord once and heard a faint jingle. I thought I felt the plug start to give, so I gave it one last sharp jerk, and the faint jingle crescendoed into a cacophony of bells and breaking glass. I winced and surveyed the damage behind me. My most precious ornaments were still in tact, except for a glass rabbit with a hole through its heart and a clay ballerina with two broken legs.
I did my Christmas crying before Thanksgiving when I put the tree up; I was cold and lonely, and the ornaments' stories seemed bittersweet as I did my trimming solo, fanning each artificial branch into something more lifelike, choosing the best hanging spots for my prettiest treasures and reserving the back for the glass pineapple of unknown origin and the fat blue crab from Boston.
Nothing about this apartment deserves a pretty little tree. The white walls and high ceilings swallow its light.
The glass pineapple had broken. I scooped up its shattered spines and the other big shards and threw them in the trash, then I vacuumed up the smaller pieces of glass and glitter, and gave my kitchen a once-over with the Dyson while I was at it.
I put lunch in the oven and scanned my receipts. I showed my light-swallowing, white-walled apartment to the man I hope will free me from my lease and gingerly unplugged the tree again when I left for the afternoon.
The Christmas spirit hasn't really found me this year. Mostly — and I've never felt this way before, ever — I want to fast-forward to February, when I'd like to think I'll have the time to start making sense of my life. For the past few years, Christmas has been about the stress of travel, finding the money to afford all the presents and getting them home in time for the big day. I used to love Christmas so much. Last year, I needed a change. I spent the holiday in Chicago with the Knight, in my cozy Lincoln Square apartment that embraced the light of my tree. Every molecule of the living room glowed. We opened presents in our pajamas, ate leftovers from our Christmas Eve feast and watched movies on the sofa. We never even went outside that day. It was so blissful on the surface, but it was punctuated with guilt, disappointment and resentment.
I must really be an adult now.
Christmas is next Saturday. I'm not really sure how that happened, and I can't seem to get myself excited. So the toppled tree didn't strike me much either. It was more like knocking over a lamp. A broken bulb, a busted shade.
That's how it felt this year, anyway.
I've re-fanned the branches, and the lights still work. The man who looked at my apartment noted how pretty it was; everyone else who sees the tree oohs and ahhs over it. It brings out the Christmas spirit in others.
The ballerina's legs can be glued back to her body. She will dance again.
The hole in the rabbit's heart can't be patched, but he'll go on. I'll think of how I felt when he broke every year I take him out of the box — that's his story now — and I'd like to think I'll be in better spirits then.