Taking Down the Tree
Our revels now are ended. It seems that our actors were all spirits and are melted into air, Eleanor at the airport, and Walker at the door to his room in Russian House, quite suddenly, on Sunday afternoon.
Ron and I came home to a quiet house and bewildered cats, who thought that a warm body in every bed was going to be a great way to spend the winter. We ordered a pizza and watched a movie Eleanor had recommended, as a way to avoid sadly cleaning up the holiday leftovers and picking up the holiday mess right away.
And then on Monday morning we went to work and last evening I had a friend over to watch the end of season five of Supernatural, and now it’s morning again and the tea cart has some odds and ends left over and there are cat toys all over the floor and it’s Epiphany– time to undecorated the Christmas Tree. We used to take down the tree and clean up the house for New Year’s Day, but since we moved to Ohio and took the kids to an Episcopal church, we adopted the custom of celebrating the twelve days of Christmas as a way to delay the sadness of declaring the holidays over.
Jane Kenyon conveys this sadness in “Taking Down the Tree.”
“Give me some light!” cries Hamlet’s
uncle midway through the murder
of Gonzago. “Light, Light!” cry scattering
courtesans. Here, as in Denmark,
it’s dark at four, and even the moon
shines with only half a heart.
The ornaments go down into the box:
the silver spaniel, My Darling
on its collar, from Mother’s childhood
in Illinois; the balsa jumping jack
my brother and I fought over,
pulling limb from limb. Mother
drew it together again with thread
while I watched, feeling depraved
at the age of ten.
With something more than caution
I handle them, and the lights, with their
tin star-shaped reflectors, brought along
from house to house, their pasteboard
toy suitcases increasingly flimsy.
Tick, tick, the desiccated needles drop.
By suppertime all that remains is the scent
of balsam fir. If it’s darkness
we’re having, let it be extravagant.
Taking down the outside Christmas lights, I fill up the bird feeder, getting us all prepared for extravagant darkness and cold.
I remember getting a demonstration at lunchtime one day while Eleanor was here of why the conversations at meals had gotten so logical and grave when she went off to college. We were discussing Daesh, and someone said it wasn’t a country and someone else said that was part of the point, that we didn’t formally recognize it as any kind of organization and while all this talk was going on, Eleanor made a quick hand gesture and asked “who dis?” which broke everybody up and took the conversation in a new direction.
Now that both kids are gone, the conversations get a little bit predictable, like the people who don’t tell jokes anymore but just refer to them by number. By suppertime, we’ll have cleaned out most of the leftovers and vacuumed up most of the needles from the carpet. We long for epiphany, but all we can see is more darkness ahead.