Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Incredible Shrinking Christmas Tree

I was so proud of myself.


After the near disaster last year of coming home to find our real tree leaning perilously close to face planting in the middle of the living room, Mark had suggested we go out and buy a nice artificial tree. I was astounded. I had taken all the ornaments and lights off the real tree and was ready to call it a day, even though Christmas was still almost two weeks away. Mark had never been Mr. Christmas, and that's why I was surprised when he made his suggestion. We found one we liked, brought it home, and Mark even offered to assemble it so that I could then decorate it. (He drew the line at putting ornaments on the tree.)

It was beautiful. And I was happy that we had the opportunity to pick the tree out together and that it would be a lasting reminder of our last Christmas together.

The new tree last year

As this year's holiday season approached, however, I was a little anxious because I hadn't been home when Mark assembled the tree last year. Would I be able to figure it out? (Even after earning a law degree, I still have times when I have serious doubts about the level of my intelligence, especially when it comes to assembling things.) 

Imagine my pleasure, then, at putting the tree together 1-2-3. I was so pleased with myself. Over the ensuing days, I decorated it. The kids came over this weekend and loved it. 

It was only yesterday morning when I was rummaging around in the Christmas closet that I made my discovery: I had left out one whole section of the tree, which was in a big lawn and leaf bag on a shelf next to the box the tree came in. It was then that I remembered that I hadn't been able to fit the whole tree back in the box and so I had put one section in the bag (which I suspect was the base segment). Ugh. The tree should be two feet taller than it is. (Remember the comment I made about my intelligence?)

So, for the second year in a row, I find myself with a Christmas tree predicament. But I'm just going to let it be; there's no way I'm taking all the ornaments off to fix it. The good news is that I have lots more room to add future ornaments!


Speaking of ornaments, I posted every year on my blog about the ornaments I collected that year. I admit it got to be almost an obsession for me to collect ornaments while on our travels; but they became a sort of metaphor for what was going in our lives: I was trying to assemble as many memories of Mark and our time together as I could during those three years after his diagnosis, knowing that, one day, those would be all I would have left - memories. (Not quite all, but you know what I mean.) Similarly, my Christmas tree is full of ornaments that I collected during that same period in which are stored memories of the time Mark and I had together.

As I took the ornaments from years past out of their boxes and put them on the tree, there were moments that I was taken back to when and where we had purchased an ornament. There were a number of times when a smile came. And there was one particular ornament that brought a few tears - the one I gave Mark our first Christmas together:

And here are the new ornaments from this year. First are two "mermen" ornaments. I started collecting these starting at Christmas 2011, when I purchased one of a doctor to represent Mark. This year, I added "Octotini" to represent my trip to Tahiti and "Orlando" to commemorate the massacre that killed so many beautiful young gay men. 

Interestingly, when the kids saw the tree, the first thing they checked for and asked about were this year's additions to the Mermen collection. They thought they were awesome.

Then there were a couple of ornaments that I purchased when I was in Croatia in August. The first one is from Dubrovnik, and I bought it from the same woman from whom I had purchased a couple of ornaments when Mark and I were there in September of last year. 


Then there was this one, a lavender sachet from a beautiful little town on the Croatian coast of which I have special memories. 

Lastly, there's this one that I purchased of Christ Church in Philadelphia during my visit last spring with my cycling buddy Tom and his husband, Michael. Since this was the first ornament I purchased after Mark left, it has a special significance for me. I hesitated buying it, then went ahead. I'm glad I did.

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