Our apartment ceiling is terrifically high, and the top of the Christmas tree almost touches it. The thing is long and lean, like the spouse who carries it up three flights of stairs from the building’s basement. Walking the city sidewalks (busy sidewalks) populated by tree vendors and their wares, my breaths are so deep you’d think I had a cold stethoscope pressed against my chest. My nose makes a compelling argument for a “real” tree, but our lifestyle (cats, toddler, extremely dry air) is more compatible with a North American pre-lit artificial tree.
After the spouse hauls it up to our floor, I take great pleasure in assembling the tree. It’s no Times crossword puzzle, but figuring out how to make this duffel bag of branches look like a tree after eleven months of not practicing that particular skill should be considered an intellectual achievement. Universally, I mean; I already award myself many smarty pants points for this feat.
Setting up the tree is also physically demanding. Our wood floors are irregularly slanted, causing the tree to lean in an unnerving way (have I mentioned the cats and the toddler?). As a precaution against gravity, we secure the top of the tree to a small ceiling hook with a clear nylon string. Naturally, you’d expect the 6’2” spouse to handle this part. But he doesn’t possess the requisite flexibility. Yes, flexibility is an important component of this maneuver! After fashioning a loop at one end of the nylon string, I balance on the left sofa arm with my right foot. Then I extend my left leg so that my left foot can rest against a wall, and with my knee locked, I advance my left foot up the wall until my legs form a 135-degree angle and my weight is somewhat equally supported by wall and couch. Then I swing my arms wildly until the nylon loop catches the hook that was left in the ceiling by the previous residents. The other end of the string gets wrapped around the highest bough, and I gingerly push off from the wall to stick the dismount.
The past few nights, I haven’t slept very well. I know what’s keeping me awake, but there’s nothing I can do about it. So I get cozy on the couch and gaze at this tree. Setting it up gave me the opportunity to feel brilliant and athletic. Dismantling it in little less than a month will give me the same feelings. But in between, the lights, the ornaments, the sequins, the sparkle…
I guess I’m saying there’s a giant talisman in my living room, bestowing confidence, delight, and comfort. What a season.