It was an unimpressive Christmas tree.
Some of the lights didn’t work.
The cat had eaten a part of it.
It stood an undramatic 4 feet tall.
But it was taller than her son, and to him it was like the Rockefeller tree he’d only seen on TV.
He loved it, and he loved that it was his sole responsibility to decorate it with special glass ornaments from Dollarama. He loved decorating so much that he would re-decorate it, every day. Getting everything just right.
“You must really love Christmas,” stated the over zealous intern from work, who got roped into delivering her files to her doorstep every week.
“Not really”, she muttered. She didn’t like the commercialism or all the trappings that came with it. Did she really have to talk to the intern? She was in the habit of keeping the curtains drawn, so that pedestrians wouldn’t see the tiny tree lit up in her living room. But here he was, in her doorway being observant.
“Ah okay well, most people don’t keep their tree up past Easter, so I just thought…” she let his words hang in the air so he’d leave. As he turned away, he remembered one last item of business…
“By the way, Boss wants to know how much longer you think you’ll be on sick leave?”
“Forever.” She answered bluntly. “It’s not a cold.”
“Ah okay well…” he started to say again but she had already closed the door.
She should take down the tree, she thought to herself almost every day. It brought her no joy. A fake tree for fake nostalgia.
Just put it away, she’d say to herself in the middle of the night when she couldn’t sleep. Throw it all in the garbage. Be normal. For once just be normal and then it will all go away.
But then she would hear her son’s voice, singing the song he made up when he decorated and re-decorated.
“What’s with the tree?” piped the delivery guy, handing over her Thai delivery for one.
“It’s Christmas somewhere?” she chimed weakly.
Later that very night, she dragged the helpless little tree into the bathroom, where no one would see it.
It will be December twenty-fifth again before we know it and then it will be normal again, at least for a while, she decided.
It was the best decision. She was tired of strangers acting like she had committed a public offence. Of scrambling for explanations to defend the tree. Of keeping the curtains drawn. Of blocking the delivery boys’ view when she answered the door.
Most of all, she was tired of pretending she was okay.
Hiding that she couldn’t take it down because he was gone. That her one and only son would never be back to put ornaments up again, and gaze upon the cheap, scrawny department store tree with awe.
If she took down the tree, it would never go up again, not the same way.
So, it stayed.