Friday, January 06, 2006
I'm almost done removing the decorations from our Christmas tree. I've been doing it slowly, a few each day, and now only the lights remain.
Once I get them off and remove the stand, I'll drag the tree out in front of our house Sunday night and leave it for the garbage men.
This being Little Christmas, the day the Three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem, I suppose I should respect tradition and take the tree down before midnight, but I'm in no hurry.
It's sad to take down such a fine tree, the first we've had in our house in a long time. We had such a nice Christmas this year, I hate to see the old guy go.
As I removed the decorations, it felt like I was taking the medals off a soldier, but I think now it's more like preparing a departed friend for burial.
I wish I could take this tree back home to the woods, set it ablaze in a snow-covered field, and say a silent prayer of thanks as the ashes could curl up to the winter sun.
Leaving it on the street to be devoured by a New York City Sanitation truck isn't quite the same.
Of Tree I Sing
I remember one year my dad took our Christmas tree down and tossed it into the garden in the back of our house, where it stayed for weeks, becoming brown and shriveled.
I forget why he just didn't throw the thing out like everybody else in the world, but, whatever the reason, that tree stayed in our lives until it was almost spring. I'd go to the backyard to put out the trash, look toward the garden, and there it was, leaning against the back fence like the body of slain mobster.
After so much time went by, it was like we couldn't throw it out; we missed our chance. My father would joke about the tree at the dinner table, saying "I'm going to put some tinsel on it."
And then one day he actually got rid of it, sans tinsel, but still very late in the day. I was at school, thank God, but my dad said the garbage men were shocked when they saw it, and they're a pretty tough bunch.
Over the weekend I realized I never got around the Christmas tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is hands down my favorite tree in town.
This tree is set up inside the musuem, so you're protected from the cold and the snow, and it's decorated with 18th-century Neapolitan figures. Instead of one tree lighting, the Met's tree is lit twice a week on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the holidays.
I recall the first time I saw one of the Met's tree lightings. The lights were on already and I muttered, "what? They're gonna turn it off and then back on again?"
That's exactly what they did and it was beautiful. Unlike other tree lighting ceremonies, where somebody throws a switch and the whole thing erupts in an explosion of lights, the Met's tree comes to life gradually.
The lights were turned down and then a single beam shined on the manger, while "Silent Night" played over the sound system. Slowly the other lights came on, until this magnificent tree was fully lit. It brought tears to my eyes.
Form a Line, Please
Now the holiday decorations are coming down all over the city as things get back to normal.
This week, a crew of workers took down the huge and, I think, rather tacky, display in the lobby of my office building.
There were mechanical teddy bears, elves, and other assorted creatures propped up on bogus snow mounds where they twisted back and forth, dancing, I guess, with endless holiday glee. It looked as if they were trying to escape and get some rest. And you could hardly blame them.
Sometimes there was music playing to accompany the stopless dancers, but if not, the lobby was filled with the joyous sounds of humming machinery and squeaking gears. It could be a little creepy at night.
I found the whole thing rather low-rent, but I'd see people with their kids pressing their faces against the lobby windows, mesmerized by the display. And the security guards let them come in for a look, like it was a tour of the Sistine Chapel.
I hate to be a grinch, but, hell, if you go uptown a little ways, you'll see the tree at Rockefeller Center and beautiful window displays in some of the most famous stores in the world. This lobby display might wow 'em in Peoria, but this is New York, right?
Now that its gone and the lobby is so empty, I feel like I'm walking through an airplane hanger. Maybe they should keep the display up all year round and put different costumes on the figures for every holiday.
Dress them up like Lincoln and Washington for President's Day; turn them into leprechauns for St. Patrick's Day, and then go all out for July Fourth. And for the dry spells, we could give them little briefcases and cellphones, so they'd look like all the other working stiffs in the building.
And I saw today that the Salvation Army man who used to stand with his kettle near the stock exchange and ring a bell is gone, and the guy who handed out flyers for a topless nightclub has returned. And now I'm wondering if maybe its the same guy working both jobs...
There's a little fear mixed in with the sadness and relief. I created quite a big to-do list in the weeks leading up to January 1, 2006, all the things I put off until--(dramatic pause)--after the holidays.
I usually start using that expression in early November, promising I'll learn how to speak Latin, get a master's degree, learn to mambo and remake Ben-Hur with a hand-held video camera and a cast of stray cats. I'll do it all..after the holidays.
But once the holidays are over, the excuses disappear like plastic Santas and cardboard chimneys.
It's time to make good on those resolutions, get busy on those projects, and prove to myself and the world that this year is going to be different from all those other years where I made a stack of promises and watched them wilt like Frosty the Snowman in a turkish bath.
First I'll finish taking down our Christmas tree. Maybe after I struggle to get the thing out the door, I won't speak so fondly of it anymore.
Maybe, as my hands become smeared with sap, as pine needles become imbedded in the furniture, where they'll keep turning up until August, I'll ask myself, what the hell was I thinking when I agreed to bring this monstrosity into the house?
But then I'll remind myself that it's a new year, and time for a new attitude. I'll wash my hands, clean up the pine needles and get to work.
Now where's that video camera...?