The tree is up, decorated, and glowing in the living room, as well as in our hearts, once again.
When I was a child, I’d often get up in the middle of the night, sneak downstairs, turn on the Christmas tree lights, and lie on the floor beneath them. I’ve done so, too, as an adult when my sleep was restless. I lie on the sofa, covered in a throw, trying slowly to take in the story of each ornament.
Ray and I love decorating the tree together. It’s so much more meaningful when you do it as a family. The most fun part of our effort is pointing out decorations and trying to remember who gave them to the other.
“The donkey and the elephant you brought with you from Detroit,” Ray said.
“No, we got those at Eric of Boston’s shop on Charles Street 42 years ago. Remember?”
“You’re right. We bought a lot of things from him.”
“And these foil-covered ornaments we got in San Francisco, right?”
Between the two of us, we have enough combined short-term memory and long-term memory to navigate the past and present. And, if neither of us remembers, it doesn’t matter.
“Do you remember,” I asked, “when we strung popcorn and cranberries night after night as we watched TV?”
“Those cranberries and popcorn were our main tree decorations. We used to cut down our own tree at the Trappist monastery, put it on our little red Opel, and drive back across the state to Boston.”
The Christmas tree is our holiday family photo album that brings us through year after year of finding something special for the other, as well as for our gay brothers who often stayed with us. The ornaments were purchased all over the world and have meaning only to us. When we’re both gone, someone will find the boxes of ornaments and donate them to a thrift shop. It doesn’t matter. Someone else might enjoy them, but they won’t know the stories they represent. So what? It’s their turn to create and savor memories. But right now, and hopefully for many years to come, they’re ours.
Last night, on my walk with the dog, I wondered how many more Christmases I’d be able to do all of the inside decorating. I’ll be 75 in January. Will I still have the energy to spend two weeks pulling out items of Christmas magic, and placing them around the house when I’m 90?
Such thinking is a waste of time. The future doesn’t exist. The heaven that I can choose to be in right now is all around me, sparkling and whispering wonderful memories, and giving me the opportunity to create more happy recollections.
One night this week, I’m going to go out in the middle of the night and feel again the joy and peace the Christmas tree brings to me.
Brian McNaught has been an author and educator on LGBTQ issues since 1974. Former Congressman Barney Frank said of Brian, “No one has done a better job of chronicling what it’s like to grow up gay." http://www.brian-mcnaught.com/