I’ve never dragged a human body into the woods, but I can imagine the work involved. After all, each year I dissemble the Christmas tree, and we say a little prayer of thanks over his branches before returning him to the woods where he came from. This year, however, I had to drag him through two plus feet of fresh snow leaving little bits of him behind, a kind of Christmas carnage in dried branches and pine needles. Sometimes, I leave the tree out front for a friendly farmer named Annie to pick up to feed to her goats. Did you know that goats ate pine trees? I did not, until a few years ago, but I can’t imagine those are easy to digest. But this year, this year, I needed the tree to disappear and fast. We came home Christmas night from a lovely holiday spent with both sets of grandparents in Franconia to find every branch drooping, sad and heavy beneath the weight of ornaments, the sigh of relief that he survived the holiday and could now rest.
I remember my mom always saying when I was a kid that the aftermath of Christmas left her feeling let down, the wind ripped from the sails of holiday memories. I do not feel like my mom. After taking the tree down yesterday, I feel the space return to my living room and our ability to move about freely without toys blocking Geoff’s wheelchair or the many bags of life spilling into the Christmas carnage. I feel 20 pounds lighter even if the scale– post holidays– says otherwise.
But we embrace everything that is Christmas with our kiddos at the height of their magical belief in Santa Claus. Even when Greta reports that a boy in her first grade class shared that his family does not believe in Santa and his mom and dad deliver his Christmas presents, she believes that because he is sometimes wrong at school, so he might not have all the information right now. Even when your in laws ask if it’s okay to get your daughter an Elf on the Shelf because she is desperate for one, and you tell them no, you don’t need ONE MORE TASK TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR IN YOUR LIFE, and they ignore your request and purchase said elf on the shelf anyway because it makes your daughter so happy. And it did. And it made me want to cry because, like I said, I do not need ONE MORE TASK TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR IN MY LIFE. Of course, their heart was in the right place; it always is and I love them for that.
We’ve discussed that each family has different rules for their Elf on the Shelf, and, well, ours might just find himself hanging out in the Christmas tree for days at a time. She, whose name is Snowball, might also sit on kitchen counter or rest somewhere actually high on a shelf. Part of dragging that Christmas tree out of my house was a cathartic and mindful practice rooting itself in the realization that these are small problems, and ones not worth another minute’s thought. But they shouldn’t have asked if they were going to do it anyway. But they are reading this blog right now, this very minute, and I don’t want them to feel bad about their decision, as the years of Santa are short, and our daughter’s joy in opening that Elf was palpable. And it makes for a good story to tell at the holidays. “Remember that time, Grandpa Phil bought you an Elf even when Mommy said no? Man, was that funny!” And maybe then I will be able to laugh alongside the rest of the family.
Carver wrote Santa a letter that night asking him to please send a picture of the real Rudolph for him to frame and hang in his room. So that will need to get done sometime this week. We will wrap up our holiday loose ends with some last deliveries to friends of the origami Christmas tree bedazzled in red glitter 2017 that we ran out of time to do before Christmas Eve. My brother, sister in law and nieces are here for the week to ski with us in sub zero temperatures, and we will make countless memories.
Here’s the kicker about Christmas. We love it. We honor traditions and remember why we celebrate the birth of baby Jesus and Santa’s presence, along with some silly elves and reliable reindeer. But I also truly appreciate when the Christmas carnage is over, and the tree carcass leaving my home helps me to believe it will happen again before we know it. Happy New Year friends!