It seemed like something I should ask my daughters about. Not for permission, exactly. But not exactly not for permission, either.
What would you think if Q and I had a smaller tree this year? One that could sit on the table in the bay window?
I think it's a great idea, Corinna said. We were sitting in a row at the school Christmas concert -- Madeline's last one. Madeline, her older sister Rose, their aunt, their mom -- all of them performed in it. I've been going to this concert for a long, long time.
It's such a pain getting a big one in the door, I explained, although I hadn't gotten an argument.
Yeah, said her husband, needles all over.
I don't mean like tiny, I hastened to reassure no one in particular. You know, maybe four feet, instead of eight.
This will mean that not all of our ornaments will be on the tree, I guess. This is a little hard on me -- I feel a certain obligation to old Christmas ornaments. I imagine them lying in their boxes through the long, hot summer, their excitement as their annual gig approaches. I would hate to deny it to any of them. I do have some codependency issues. And a little trouble remembering that inanimate objects are inanimate.
It seemed I had convinced Corinna. I called Anna.
What would you think if Q and I had a smaller tree this year? I said. And put it on the table in the bay window, instead of on the floor in the dining room?
She was finishing up the baking of eight dozen perfect cookies for the annual cookie swap with her girlfriends, while her fiance was getting into things: embarassing old pictures of Anna and her friends. She was multi-tasking: talking to me, shaping cookies and yelling at Chad.
Yeah. I think that's a good idea. You get out of there!
I just thought it would be nice to simplify things a little.
Don't you dare look at that!
So you wouldn't mind, or anything? It seemed clear that she would not.
I gotta go, she said, and we hung up.
So today we'll go and get a little tree, I think. They're never hard to find, not like their glorious perfect taller cousins. We'll carry it right in, without having to move furniture. All I have to do is move a lamp and we can set the tree up right on the little table. And maybe I can find other places to use some of the ornaments that don't make the cut, so their feelings aren't hurt.
I used to feel sorry for older people who downscaled Christmas. I would visit them, look at their little ceramic Christmas trees studded with colored lights, their candy dishes on the table with their medicine bottles, the Christmas cards set up on a shelves, and I would be sorry that the bustle of the season had left them behind now. Surely they must experience this as a great sorrow, I thought.
Now I am not so sure. Smallness and quiet call me, now, and something deep within me answers with joy, untinctured with even the slightest wistfulness. Perhaps the joy of Christmas lies not in its specialness. Perhaps what is special about it is precisely that it is an ordinary day, an ordinary day in which heaven comes to earth and transforms it, so that henceforth no day, however ordinary, is untouched by holiness.
So that there need be no letdown after Christmas day. Because it is afterward that the blessing of it walks the world.