No matter how many times I type it out, it always seems like too many "blue-s." Anyway, happy holidays. It's already snowed here, there is a Christmas tree in my living room and David has convinced me to give him two of his Christmas presents already. But hey, the boy's persistent, and I DID make him watch every Christmas movie we own all in one weekend. He deserved it.
What happened to my steady strength? Gone with the warm weather, I suppose, and I am left feeling frail, easily moved: a push over where strong legs once stood. It doesn't take much for my eyes to fill slowly from the edges, forming huge gray, dripping puddles where my eyeliner and saline meet. Sentimentality that I would usually scoff at, grabs me, shakes me up. Stirred, I am a mixture of emotion and logic and caffeine.
Sleeping isn't settling me down. Six hours or 16, I "wake" feeling restless, annoyed. I look asleep, but my head is swimming in a dream. My mother is there. An old love is there. A wedding is taking place. There is a tug of war, a bath tub of freezing cold water and I am being plunged in, then out, again and again. Six hours or 16, I "wake" and dress for work silently, avoiding the bathroom altogether. My car is stubborn to start, but eventually it does and I ride to work with the news, a story of a whole diner in Pennsylvania where one customer's generosity of paying for a stranger's meal turned into a five-hour game of "pay it forward." I cry alone in the driver's seat.
And all day that vision, the image of that tree in my mother's house sits at the back of my throat. The vision of our Christmas tree choked with white-strands and mismatched lights. A pink where purple should be, a sea-green where blue should be. All of them where our normal, simple white lights should be. Silver Christmas balls crowded by small sparkling birds where our delicate and precisely placed ornaments should be. Bunches of fake flowers puff out from inside the tree, awkwardly protruding into the red living room where dead space should be. A violent screach of noise filling the room where soft Christmas songs should be.
It should be: My mother prodding the tree, saying gently to her helper who extends a handmade ornament, "No, I don't think so, it doesn't quite go with our theme this year." It should be: A radiant display of simplicity and class, "It could be straight out of Southern Living" says a guest. It should be: Bing Crosby singing "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas," my mother humming the tune softly to herself, her eyes squinting as she steps back from the tree, then twinkling in approval.
It is: A tangled mess of glittery ornaments, white wiring and gray tears. It is: A tangled mess of hysteria. "My mother holds all the beauty that my world has ever known. Without her, there is no more beauty left," my mother says, poking another cluster of salmon-colored flowers. Blue lights this year, because she's "in mourning," turned into a rainbow of color and light, tiny bulbs shooting small colored shapes onto the ceiling above.
I step out into a cold Virginia night in mid-December. Through the living room windows I see her there, standing before a twinkly, towering tree, both so much alive. And now I understand, now I see its beauty and I go back inside to her.
She is nodding to herself. "Gawdy," she whispers, and reaches for another string of Christmas lights.