Walking home with an eight-foot Christmas tree

Y'all may recall that I have sometimes referred to Thanksgiving as little more than a speed bump on the road to Christmas. This year (as I noted yesterday), Thanksgiving was really wonderful, and I was grateful for the slowing down, the taking pause, the bit of tuning out I was able to do.

On Sunday, however, I could wait to start Christmas no longer. I LOVE CHRISTMAS! On went the carols, out came the decorations, up went the wreaths. The kids and I were determined to get our tree.

Someone very important to Tom, a mentor of his not much older than we are, passed away suddenly just about ten days ago. It has really shaken Tom, and our hearts ache for the wife and children this man left behind. As he mourns, I have tried to give my dear T some extra love and care and space when he needs it. On Sunday, he desperately needed to burn some stress and so I sent him to the tennis court with a bucket of balls.

In the meantime, and because T always wants a smaller tree than I feel is acceptable, the kids and I walked to a Christmas tree lot that pops up each year just around the corner from where our new house stands. Isn't that a magnificent coincidence? 

We picked out a towering fir, and emboldened by the fact that there no sibling fighting occurred during the choosing of said tree, I said, "Boys, we are awesome. Let's walk this puppy home!"

As the man helping us gave our tree a fresh cut and shook all the old needles free from its boughs, I regaled the kids with the story of the Christmas in New York in which I bought a tree, dragged it several blocks up Lexington Avenue and up the four flights of stairs to my tiny studio, and set it up in a stand ALL WHILE WEARING a skirt and heels. 

"So you see, boys, we three have got this made."

I took the trunk end while they flanked the lighter top, and we started our 0.3 mile trek home. 

People, an eight-foot fir is not a lightweight item. We were all sweating and covered with sap and Ol said a branch hit him in the penis and Jack exclaimed that he was surely acquiring a bruise and we took many breaks and I am certain people were thinking, "WTF is that family doing!?!"

At some point, Tom called and asked where we were. I told him we were walking the tree home, and he was like, "You're walking the tree home? Do you want me to bring the car?"

"No," said I. "We are intrepid."

About 45 seconds later, he showed up in the car. We had gone approximately 0.2 miles. My arms appeared to have cramped into 45-degree limbs, and so I agreed to let T put the trunk of the tree into the trunk of the car, and then I insisted on walking behind the car so I could hold up the top of the tree so it didn't become disfigured in any way. 

You can imagine what this parade looked like. One dear neighbor put her hands on her hips and just laughed. I mean, what else would you do? I said, "Can you tell we didn't really think this through?"

And we all laughed together.

And now our tree is up and perfect and it makes Oliver and me deeply joyous and Jack a little bit less so, and I think Tom is totally ambivalent but he did buy us new lights because we lost the others in the move and now instead of five strands that I had to crimp together we have just one and it's full of LEDs and those things are both so nice.

Decorating the tree is one of Oliver's favorite life activities. Here we are having just begun.

Decorating the tree is one of Oliver's favorite life activities. Here we are having just begun.

The tree is now dripping with ornaments. Most of those are treasures that elicit a range of happy memories.

The glass typewriter I gave Nanny ages and ages ago after she had a stroke and couldn't write well and so started to type letters to me? Mom gave it to me after Nanny died, and I cherish it.

The perler bead ornaments that map the kids' passions over time? I love them- from utter nonsense to Minecraft to a periodic table, they remind me of my boys' curiosity and enthusiasm.

The many fleur-de-lis I've collected and been gifted? You know just whose tree this is.

The red cardinals? Those are a tradition in Tom's extended family, and I love the sweet material depictions of all a marriage brings together. 

The stuffed felt Enemen (enema men), courtesy of a Fleet pharmaceutical rep who visited my dad twenty years ago? Those are campy vintage awesomeness.

The collection of Bronners ornaments? Those have been given to us and the boys, a new one for each over the years, by my Mom. She has beautiful and fun taste. 

And on and memorably on.

A somewhat return

I have not been able to find my way here for nearly a week now, and that has felt unsettling. Last Tuesday night, I kissed my boys goodbye and headed to an all-community Meeting for Worship at school. I find these Quaker meetings infinitely comforting and thought-provoking and couldn't think of a better way to begin Thanksgiving break.

As I sat in the Meeting House, alone but surrounded by so many thoughtful others, as I pondered the utter discombobulation I've felt since the election, as I listened to those who felt moved to stand and speak their own confusion and worry, I felt some peace. I felt the relief that washes over any of us when we remember or see that we aren't alone in something. 

I know I'm not alone in the worry I feel about our country, in the wonder about how to bridge divides that seem like vast gulfs, in the frightened disappointment about how far facts have fallen from their rightful place of common ground. But it's still nice to be reminded of connection, with friends, acquaintances, and downright strangers. 

There have been many such reminders during the past weeks: knowing looks and warm hugs; whispers across Thanksgiving tables; texts and emails, calls and posts checking in or asking for a bit of support. They ease the paralysis that sometimes sets in when the concern builds and starts to weight me down.

Jack and I at the Turkey Trot For Hunger finish line

Jack and I at the Turkey Trot For Hunger finish line

This Thanksgiving was the loveliest one in years. We ran our annual Turkey Trot For Hunger. Jack and I matched pace for the whole 5K. At lunch, we served four different pies. All sixteen of us participated in our I Am Thankful For... game. My boys and their darling cousins get along famously. My oldest niece slept over that night, she, Ol and Jack all camped out in Ol's room. We spent the entire next day with her, her sister and parents. Have I ever told y'all that my sister-in-law and I have known each other since middle school, and that she married Tom's brother, and Tom and I met at their wedding? Best man + bridesmaid = engaged 10 months later. Life is funny.

Last night was my supper club's final dinner of the year. I had been up much of the prior night with a feverish Ol and home with him all day. I was tired as get-out. It was pitch black by 5:20pm. I was fairly certain I'd not cooked my cake quite enough. My hair. You should have seen my damn hair.

I pulled that mess into a ponytail, lint-rolled my cat-encrusted sweater, frosted the cake, and begged for a second wind as I slowly made my way to my friend's car, thankful beyond belief that she was giving me a ride. In her trunk was a beautiful basket loaded with a pot of homemade soup, a variety of toppings for it, a large bottle of wine, and a gorgeous loaf of bread. She hugged me tight, and I felt warmth creep back into my limbs.

At another friend's house, where the six of us met, I felt my shoulders drop away from my ears a bit. Felt a familiar sadness and worry hanging in the air but also felt the warm embrace of care. We'd all made delicious food, nourishing food, food made with practiced hands and love. We poured glasses of wine, raised a toast, talked. 

Again I felt surrounded by thoughtful, engaged others, and again I felt some peace. There was laughter and lightness but also real, substantive, well-informed discussion. We are all worried, vexed, pissed, sad. We are all dismayed by the 2.5 million vote differential in the popular vote, by the racist speech that seems to have lost its muzzle, by the unqualified people being given cabinet and other enormously important positions.

I look at my friends, these fascinating, kind, talented women -three of whom were not born in this country- and I look at my luminous children and nieces, and I give and receive knowing looks and big hugs, and I want so much better for us all. ALL of us. My friends, family, acquaintances, and downright strangers.

There cannot be room here anymore for racism and sexism and xenophobia and the longing for a day when "great America" meant great only for white Christian men. Going back means stripping away the progress towards equality that women and people of color have risked and given everything for. Many of the jobs that have been lost are not coming back. We all need to work mightily to create new jobs and training for them. But we need to stop carrying on about a time and place that is no more, an ugly call that Trump rode to the highest office in the land.

I better understand now how ignored some in this country have felt. I do not better understand but I do see now just how deep and rabid the hatred of the Clintons is. I am reading and talking and asking questions and trying to figure out where to go next.

But this is going to take all of us. This isn't just on me and people who happen to live on the coasts. It is also on those who voted for a constricted perspective in which there isn't room for people of color, of various faiths, of different sexual orientations, who are pro-choice and pro-environment and think factual information is important. I will not apologize for doing everything I can to foster an America that is more inclusive and tolerant. An America in which there are more rights and justice for more people rather than fewer rights for most.