I have been equal parts excited and terrified of trimming the tree this year. You see, I can't remember very many happy tree decorating moments from my childhood. Mostly there was tension, tears, trying to plaster a smile on my face and not think about how the air felt like molasses and smelled of sulfur. My house was not very 'jolly', not at Christmas, not ever.
And this first Christmas remarried - something I didn't think I would be - has caught me in my tracks, somehow. I know that Sam and I decorated those first years married, so young and on fire with love. I know we still decorated as things got rocky and tense and quiet and unsure. I remember looking at the trees and buying gifts - although if I'm honest I only really remember it in the early of those 8 years.
I don't remember feeling like much was riding on the season, though.
After Thanksgiving at the local buffet (a plan that we thought would be funny, and was in part but was also sad) Ben and I went to the store to get a little potted tree I had seen. Not quite a Christmas tree but a pine and a tree and it would do. When we walked into the store and around the corner towards the plants I saw the Elf trees - miniature Christmas trees! - and without a hint of drama, clutched my chest and spun to Ben and pleaded with my eyes. "Please, please can we get a real tree?" The whole aisle smelled of tree and all I could remember was all the years that my mother wanted a real tree and my father refused... tooo messy, tooo dangerous, too too too...
Ben thought they were messy too.
But there I was in the middle of the aisle bursting into tears when he said it seemed like a good idea, there I was clutching his coat as I buried my face in his chest, overcome with sadness over the past and hope for the future and wonder at how my life has changed and changed and changed through the years.
So we brought that tree home and sawed off the base and arranged it in the stand and I have been watering it for a week but we hadn't decorated it. I kept putting it off, you see. I kept being tired or not in the mood or something. But then I realized that I was postponing for fear of us getting in a fight while decorating or something going wrong and having to taste tears and string lights with blurry vision again. I didn't want that.
But it wasn't like that. It was lovely. And I cried again, clutching him again but from the back this time, his hands raised high with a string of lights, reaching around the back of the tree, me all tears mashed into his back, unable to decide to cry or laugh and so I did both.
It was cozy and happy and the picture of merry Christmas.
I wonder why all of this is coming up now, with this marriage when it didn't before. Maybe I knew that Sam was leaving eventually. Or maybe I was so delusional with all the hormones that I didn't and I thought that all of the past was in the past and so I boxed it up and put it in the basement and thought I was done with all of that. But these days it is like Ben and I are in that basement, opening box after box. I cry, he holds me. He laughs at how adorable I am as I jettison snot everywhere. It is a strange strange life, this one.