I can sense the daggers already…
Yesterday, I spent a few hours taking the ornaments down from our Christmas tree, and the day prior taking the rest of the Christmas decorations down from the rest of the house. All of the outside decorations came down last weekend.
Why did it take hours to get the ornaments down? I have a lot of them. A lot. Now, the unadorned Christmas tree is standing solemnly in the far corner of the great room. It’ll be there until this weekend, when it will be packed up and stored for the year. If you didn’t figure I at out, I have a hard time letting go of Christmas.
It probably dates back to the year that our suburban Detroit house had a full sized, illuminated blow mold Santa Claus, sleigh, and three reindeer on the roof until mid-May. We also had a full-sized, illuminated blow mold nativity scene — barn yard animals, Star of David et al — on the front lawn each year. We did Christmas right at the Coleman household.
Why only three reindeer? Ours was a small ranch house, so there was only so much roof. And illuminated blow mold reindeer were expensive.
An icy January prevented Dad from scooting up the ladder to the roof to pull them down, and subsequent urgings from my mother to do so fell on deaf ears.
To be honest, that springtime rooftop St. Nicholas worked for me much better than it worked for Mom. I’ve always prolonged the yuletide season as long as I can. I care barely wait to pack away the Halloween stuff and haul out the holly in the fall.
I have an Apple Music playlist called Not Christmas Jams, which includes songs like “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “Winter Wonderland” that have nothing to do with Christmas and can be played all winter, even here in California, thank you very much.
Christmas was a wonderful time while I was growing up, filled with fulfilled wish book fantasies and Christmas carols at the Spinnet. Well, on the Lowry organ. And as I pulled the ornaments from the tree as the sun set last evening, I remembered the Christmas decades ago when I begged my mother to keep the tree up as we prepared to ring in the new year.
Mom was having none of that foolishness.
“No, Michael, it’s got to go,” Mom said of the tree. She was always a proponent of clearing the old year out before the ball dropped on Times Square and we rang in the new.
But I persisted. Begged. Pleaded. And then Mom came up with a nugget that I still remember with a smile as I dismantle my own Christmas tree, all of these decades later.
“Ok, Michael. We can keep the tree up for as long as you like,” Mom shockingly abdicated.
I croaked out an incredulous “Really??”
“Yes,” Mom confirmed. “We can keep all of the decorations up, and celebrate Christmas all year.”
I felt as if I’d hit the lotto.
“But,” Mom said — why did she always have to have a proviso? — “if we stay stuck on Christmas, we’ll never make it to summer and swimming pool season.”
The air had been sucked from the room. Now, you have to understand that surviving a frozen winter was and is a rite of passage in the midwest, and you celebrate with a woefully short summer. Our family had a huge Kayak pool that took up our whole back yard, and the annual Memorial Day Weekend pool opening was a highlight of the year.
“What,” I blurted out. “What do you mean we can’t swim this summer?”
“Well, seasons change, Michael,” Mom taught, “and we have to let go of one season to get to the next one.”
“Seasons change, Michael.”
It took all of three seconds for me to relent and start helping Mom get those gold, silk-covered ornaments, lights and that tinsel off of that tree, and help Dad haul it up into the attic. I couldn’t usher the cold weather out quickly enough that spring, and had a hell of a summer, as I did every year, in our swimming pool.
And as I dismantle my own tree as I listen to Jimmy Durante sing “Frosty The Snow Man” and Diana Ross & The Supremes warble “My Favorite Things,” I remember Mom’s sage advice with a smile:
“Seasons change, Michael.”
It’s really all the advice you need to get through life’s curve balls. And it’s been said many other ways. One of my other favorites is Thomas Fuller’s “It is always darkest before the dawn.” That’s a loose paraphrase, but you get it.
But even if you don’t, it’s ok. I prefer Mom’s anyway.