Two years ago I got a Christmas tree. I went with a friend, who'd never done the whole 'chop down a tree' thing and found it quite fascinating, and the two of us put it up and decorated it, with music in the background and cats assisting in every possible way. And then she left and I was all alone in my house and that entire Christmas season I turned on the lights exactly once, and I wondered why the heck I had even bothered? Decorating the house just didn't seem all that worth it if it was only me to see it and to appreciate it. Turning off all the lights to watch the tree sparkle is kinda dull when you do it yourself. I wasn't lonely - it's just that Christmas, to me, has always been something to share. I've shared the spirit with roommates and friends and family for so many years that having no one to share it with beyond the initial set up of the tree was more of a let down.
Last year we had Christmas up in Seattle with my little sister, so that was as good an excuse as any to not have a tree. But I didn't plan to get one anyway. The year prior, one of the cats managed (despite my purchasing the most sturdy, stable-looking tree stand I could find) to pull the tree over, and I just didn't want to go through the hassle for something that really ended up being a waste of time. (Oh, and helpful hint - when you've got cats who think that the sparkly things on cords on the tree look edible and must be taken away into hiding, it's best to drape the lights back and forth instead of wrapping them around. This way, when the afore-mentioned cat grabs the string of lights and runs, the lights come off and the tree does *not* come with them).
I hadn't intended to get a tree this year either. I figured I'd do the annual tree hunt with my parents and then we'd sit around poking holes in fresh-baked gingerbread men, stringing popcorn, and pulling out all the family ornaments to decorate their house. And then I'd go home, drag out my fake poinsetta (because when the cats sit on this one, it can be brought back to life) and put on some holiday music and all would be well.
Of course, that was before Richard moved in with me and suddenly I found myself with someone who - among all the other reasons we're so compatible - loves Christmas as much as I do.
We got our tree today. We treked out to the nearest tree farm and chopped down a little incense cedar. I know it's impractical to have a real tree, but there's nothing like the scent of pine in the air to herald the coming holidays. This was the first time he'd ever gotten to 'hunt' his own tree, so it was fun for both of us.
We brought it home and, after distracting the cats with new toys, put it up and decorated. We decided that next year, Jennifer will listen to Richard when he suggests checking the string of lights *before* we hang them, and we hung all the non-breakable ornaments near the bottom of the tree because they're the ones that have the greatest tendency to leap off the branches and scurry off to other rooms - all without any assistance from the furry residents. Mm hmm.
But when we were done, we turned off all the lights in the house, turned on the lights on the tree, and sat down and just drank in the setting. The fresh smell of pine in the air; Christmas music playing softly in the background; lights on the tree, and he and I snuggled together on the couch. And for just a little while we could forget about all the stress of our respective jobs and everything else that seems to be looming over us and just *be*.