It is December 3rd, 2005 in the year of our Lord, and I am kicking off the season that celebrates His birth by standing on the top step of an 8-foot-ladder, where there is a sticker that reads “Only An Idiot Would Stand Here.” And for those idiots who can’t read, this point is illustrated with a picture of a stick man falling to his death. This Norman Rockwell scene is made even more ridiculous by the fact that it’s 80 degrees outside. I am wearing a tank top, shorts and suede flip flops (suede because it’s after Labor Day) and I’m sweating bullets as I try to coax, cajole and contort sparkly wired ribbon into appearing as though it fell effortlessly and naturally from heaven into cascading spirals onto my big fake tree. The thought that I might rather be doing something else, like flossing my teeth with an ornament hanger, crosses my mind. Why oh why do I do this? Because it’s our tradition.
Two years ago, Sean was due on Christmas day he but came six weeks early. Needless to say, after a C-section and then the stress of having a baby in the NICU followed by the marathon sleep deprivation that comes with a newborn in the house, I was in no position/mood/state of consciousness to get on a ladder and put up a tree. My sister-in-law, Terrye, who is the nicest woman on the entire earth, came to my house and put up my tree that year, and it was never more beautiful. There were many nights that first Christmas season that Sean and the dog and I got up for 2am feedings and then snuggled together under the glow of the Christmas tree afterwards. I remember watching him sleep and trying to memorize his face as it looked bathed in Christmas light. I would bend my ear down low and listen to him breathe, amazed at what a miraculous thing that life is. Those are special memories for me. Those are memories I wouldn’t have had if it were not for Terrye putting up my tree.
Last year I was recovering from thyroid cancer but I managed to put up a tree and all the trimmings anyway. Having been surgically relieved of my thyroid, I had the energy (and appearance) of a Three-Toed Sloth, but it seemed important to maintain a sense of normalcy, which in December means doing too much, spending too much, eating too much and putting up a tree. But again, there were many nights last December when Antique Daddy and I just sat in silence on the sofa with a sleeping boy in our arms watching the lights twinkle on the tree. We didn’t have to look much beyond our noses to find blessings to count.
So this year, once again, I am risking my life on a ladder to put up a tree because willful and wanton violation of OSHA standards is our tradition. And I am complaining the whole way because that is part of the tradition too. I know that my little family will make precious Christmas memories in the shadow and light of this tree in the coming days of December that I will store up and treasure in my heart long after the season has passed. And for that I would stand on anything.