Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Friggin Tree

We bought a Christmas tree. This is only the second time in our 13 years together we have done this. The first time was about 6 years ago and I can’t remember what compelled us to do so. This year, our son is 2 years old and more aware of the looming festivities. I still didn’t want a tree. They’re an unnecessary expense, I don’t like the idea of chopping down a living tree for temporary adornment, and they’re a pain the ass to keep decorated with 2 cats and a toddler in the house. My husband, however, felt inspired to do something fun as a family. Alright you got me there, so off to the tree lot we went.  We found a beautiful tree within minutes. The stroke has left me with severe spasticity in my right shoulder and I’ve learned the hard way that even the slightest bit of cold is not my friend. (It’s plain evil, actually.) Luckily I remembered my awesome bright red coat that I never get to wear thanks to California weather. I’m rather excited that now I’ll have a reason to wear it more often. My son was so happy to be outside at night he swirled around, dancing and singing “kwissmus twee! Kwissmus twee!” It was great.

It occurred to us that we had no idea where our ornaments were. They were in the garage somewhere in the myriad of unmarked cardboard boxes and plastic storage totes. I’ll be honest. This was another reason I didn’t want a tree this year. My husband has so much on his plate. A crippled wife isn’t much help digging through the garage.  We decided to buy 2 small boxes before heading home as a little start-up kit before figuring out where the stuff was. We could always buy more if need be. The first box contained 4 disco balls like this:

If I'm going to have a damned tree, it sure as hell is going to have disco balls.

The other box was of glitter foo-foo ball things like this:

I dig silver and glitter and sunbursts. This had all 3 FTW.

Sweet. Now I’m starting to feel it. Winter has been celebrated since the beginning of civilization. While we have traditionally been more bah humbug sort of people, I think now that we’re parents and especially since my stroke, we’re feeling the spirit of the holidays more this year. Since ancient times, winter festivities have been a celebration of family; that we’ve weathered through difficult times by sticking together and making due with the harvest we have. We take time to appreciate the year that is soon to be behind us and hold out for the year to come.

My husband found the missing box of ornaments a few hours ago. We opened the box and mused over the few specialty items we had to commemorate years passed.

There was the Grateful Dead ornament I got from a friend many years ago during my Deadhead days:

The flying pig my husband bought the last time we bought a tree because I love pig figurines, and let’s face it, if we had a tree then it must mean that pigs can fly.

Many of the generic ornaments were scuffed or broken, but there were enough to work with. I handed a disco ball to my son so he could put the very first ornament on his very first tree. He didn’t understand and thought I had given him a sparkly new toy. He ran off with it while I yelled and shook my fist. When you’re disabled you learn not to bother chasing after them. He finally threw it for me to recover and went for 2 gold ornaments instead. He sat down and proudly banged them together, until one of them shattered and showered golden shards of whatever that crap is made out of all over him. Meltdown in...wait for it...3…2…1…WAHHH!!  Oh togetherness…

*Note: I'm still kicking myself for not snapping a picture of this. Yes, I realize I'm a terrible person.

I took him upstairs for a much needed nap. I’m still not sure why or how, but I carried him up the stairs. Perhaps I was so fed up that I somehow invoked superhuman mama strength. Perhaps I was so ticked off that this was not at all the Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver with the Beave fantasy I held in my na├»ve head, that I didn’t stop to think I have not yet carried a 27lb toddler up a flight of stairs. I don’t think I wobbled or swayed at all. Good thing he knows to hold on. Good thing I do too. We made it safely. He threw himself on the floor of my room and fell asleep. I collapsed in a nearby chair to catch my breath and flex my biceps in admiration of myself.

As I hobbled back down the stairs, I found my husband standing next to the naked tree with his arms stretched out in a “ta da!” pose. He had found the tree topper. We almost bought one last night because we couldn’t remember if we had one. Losing all self-control I put my hand over my mouth and laughed hysterically. It’s hideous! I said as lovingly as I could, “I’m sorry but I hate it. It’s awful.” He laughed too in agreement. Then we remembered. That year we bought our first tree we had done so at the last minute. All the cool tree toppers were sold out, so we settled for the least horrible. Apparently this was it:
I told you it was hideous.

We agreed to keep our eye out for a new one in the coming weeks. I wound up decorating the rest of the tree by myself. I was growing more resentful with every stupid hook my crippled hand had to ply into shape and wrap around a branch. Then I realized that a few months ago I wouldn’t have been able to do this. I’m grateful I am learning to focus long enough on my hand and fingers to bend little wires around those branches. I’m grateful I’ve learned to slowly raise my arm so I can reach the branches higher up on the tree. This Christmas isn’t just my son’s first Christmas with a tree. It’s my first Christmas as a disabled person. It’s my time to reflect on what has happened to me, how it has impacted my family, and how we’re sticking together for the year to come. Even if that means daddy is checking scores online and our spawn is screaming and breaking the ornaments.
He woke up just in time to mess with the tree while I snapped a pic of my work.


  1. I love it! So glad you decided to get a tree. It is so important to create memories and traditions for your child. Those are what hold your family together through the tough times. And just think one Christmas in the future your son can have that beautiful tree topper on his own tree and tell the story of where it came from to his own kids!!

  2. you rock - i love to read your posts. and you carried gibson up the stairs?!? step off, greatest american hero.

    i find myself getting more into the holidays too. good time to reflect and be greatful (i did that for you) for what we have.

  3. Awesome! I loved the part of how this is your first Christmas as a disabled person...& I absolutely think the "Dead head" ornament looks great!

  4. You are such a good writer. I love reading your stories. And...I think the tree topper is awesome!