The box came and I hauled it inside. I grabbed the usual steak knife that I use to open all my packages (since I no longer need it for steak) and prepared to slice the packaging tape.
It was at that moment that I started to get that little prickly feeling in my nose. Was it a sneeze coming on or were there some tears working their way to my eyeballs?
Had to be a sneeze, right? Who gets emotional opening a damn Christmas tree box? I wasn’t even completely sold yet on the idea of actually decorating.
The tree was a good deal so I bought it on a whim. And while I haven’t been overtaken by the point-and-click Order Everything On Amazon obsession, it was a rather impulse purchase.
I woke up one day and decided: I may put up a Christmas tree this year.
The problem with this scenario was that at the age of 36, I didn’t own one. Let me rephrase that: I sold my previous Christmas tree at a Garage Sale about 7 years prior because I didn’t think I’d ever put one up again.
It isn’t that I’m a Grinch (despite what my co-host tells everyone who listens to the show), it’s just that I never really saw the point. Even way back when.
Sure, seeing other people’s homes ablaze in twinkling lights and mistletoe is pretty, but I’m a “Hang A Wreath On The Door And Call It A Day” kinda girl.
Come to think of it, I don’t decorate for any of the seasons or the specific holidays. What’s hanging on my walls and displayed on my shelves will probably be the same things for the next 20 years. Chances are, it’s the same decor I’ve had for decades. I like what I like and I don’t mess with it.
I do like Christmas. I guess you could say I’m just not Christmasy.
At least I thought I wasn’t.
With this sudden change of identity, I had ordered the biggest and most unrealistic looking tree I could find. Go big or go home!
So there I was, taking the pieces of an 8’ bright white Christmas tree out of the box.
And just like that I realized those prickles I was feeling weren’t from a sneeze. This was gonna be an ugly cry.
It seemed to all hit me at once. The only reason I had this stupid, humongous tree was because my babies weren’t here anymore. Mr. Fuzzybottoms would have been happily munching on all the bottom branches and Hannah Baby would be batting ornaments off of the highest bough. But none of that would happen now because they weren’t here anymore. This was my first cat-less Christmas. And I already hated it.
So like a crazy person, I put all the tree segments back in the box and was tempted to take it right out to the garbage can. I didn’t want this perfect holly jolly reminder of Christmas cheer because I was still so sad from losing them, Fuzz in September and Hannah Baby the summer before.
Grief is a really weird thing. It hits you at the most insane times. Apparently the arrival of this gaudy Christmas tree was all it took in that moment to trigger the floodgates.
It doesn’t happen all the time. In fact, most days I can even now talk about both of them without getting that hitch in my voice. But some days, it’s not as easy.
There's just something about Christmastime that makes losing the ones you love seem that much harder. You miss them every day but it just feels deeper.
My grandma has been gone for over ten years and every year without fail as I’m putting my makeup on for our Christmas Eve gathering- the one she would have attended in her bright gold outfit that we used to laugh at every year- I have to stop and wait for my eyes to dry because I just miss her. A lot.
In fact, right now I have her gold outfit hanging in my closet. I’ll probably never wear it but I know it’s there. And now I had a ridiculously large artificial tree sitting by my fireplace that has absolutely nothing to do with my cats but it feels like it does. So I both loved and hated it all at the same time.
Yet I wasn’t going to throw it away. I mean, let's be clear about one thing: While I may be super sentimental and overly emotional at times, I’m also thrifty. So throwing away a brand new $52 tree wasn’t going to happen. It might sit in the box in my living room for who knows how long, but it certainly wasn’t going in the trash.
So it sat there. For weeks.
Then on Thanksgiving night, while my parents were visiting, I randomly opened the box again.
I did it only to show Mom what it looked like and somehow it just went up. We were just taking it out to fluff all the branches to see if it was worth keeping and one piece led to another. And it went up.
Same with the ornaments. I brought the totes out and we were just going to look through them (or so I thought). And somehow they just went up.
Now I have this tree standing tall (like really obscenely tall considering I’m only 5 feet myself), decorated with all my sentimental ornaments from over the years. The strange part is, what once stood in my mind for so much loss doesn’t really feel that way anymore.
I can sit back and just enjoy its beauty- if white Christmas trees with lots of glittery pink high heels, Cleveland Browns, and Ohio State ornaments are what you too find beautiful.
This might be a one and done year. Who knows? I might have little furry paws running around here by this time next year and decide to forgo the constant tree-policing and keep it in its box again.
Who knows what the future holds? I mean, really, who does? I never thought at this time last year I’d be sitting here with no cat on my lap and looking at a Christmas tree. But here we are and oddly enough, having that little extra light in the room just feels right.
Copyright 2019 Laura McKenna. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without express written consent.