Oh Christmas Tree
As I lay here the other night, I realized I couldn’t hear the rain outside. Two stories from the ground, the patter of water meeting ground did not reach through my windows, and two stories of life above me, people unknown to me, living in my exact floor plan, just at a slightly higher elevation, blocked any chance of the drops hitting the roof making a sound over my bed. I have always lived in houses or smaller buildings where, on the off chance of a California storm, I could fall asleep listening to it’s song, my bed a sanctuary from the elements. That is how I know this is not home.
Home was where my family was. It was where I felt comfortable and wanted to be. This is temporary, the next step in the reconstruction of my deconstructed life. That may be why it is so odd to look around the apartment tonight.
On Friday, when I picked up the kids, my Ex presented my with a large green plastic tub, on the side, in my writing, was written “Christmas Stuff”. I recognized it, it was one of the many tubs full of decorations and holiday things that I would lift up and down from the attic when we lived in our tiny rental house in Burbank and later carry up and down three flights of stairs from and to the garage at our condo in Santa Clarita. I didn’t really want to take it, but Lucy was fully aware that it existed and was excited to decorate my house with it’s contents.
Now I wasn’t much of a Christmas person before I got married… OK, there was that one year after a particularly long night at Dalt’s, I rode my bike to the 24 hour Sav-On’s and bought a whole bunch of lights, came home to the apartment my sister and I shared and did a little drunken decorating. My sister woke in the middle of the night to flashing red and white lights and thought the place was on fire and there were emergency vehicles outside, let’s just call that misguided holiday spirit on my part. But as soon as my Ex and I got together I tried to be better about Christmas. For our first, I got a tiny live tree for us to have in my little loft apartment with a few special ornaments.
I kept that tree, giving it water and watching it grow. It didn’t stay in that perfect, cone fir tree shape, it kind of grew wild, going this way and that… But that was perfect for us, it was like our marriage, not perfect, a little wild and unpredictable, but growing. It grew pretty big, I kept transferring to larger and larger pots. When we moved it was too heavy for me to lift, I had to use the refrigerator dolly to get it up the stairs. It survived a tiny patio overlooking Dalt’s, a little backyard where our large black dog made sport of torturing squirrels and a balcony in Canyon Country where it would sit under circling hawks and butterflies would rest on it’s branches. On Christmas it would again get to wear lights and an ornament or two.
When the kids and I returned to my apartment on Friday Lucy couldn’t wait to bust open that green Christmas tomb and start spreading it’s contents around… As I assumed, it was mainly filled with the items my Ex didn’t want. But despite if it was a cherished heirloom or some garland with burnt out lights, I couldn’t imagine how it made me feel to see these items spread around this apartment, around this new “home”, around my new life. These were decorations of celebration acquired during my marriage, symbols of family and holders of holiday memories from a time only a few years ago, that seem like forever ago. I let the kids put them where ever they wanted and I didn’t say a thing, and they will remain where those tiny hands placed them… But they do not belong here. Those artifacts of joy are now just reminders of pain.
It’s kind of weird for me to think about, but my Ex kept that tree. It sits somewhere in her new life, surrounded by new people that have no idea of it’s history. I’m not going to lie, if she had left it behind for me to deal with when we moved, I would have thrown it away. I could not have looked at it’s branches, twisting and turning towards the sky, it’s needles of green, poured water into it’s soil, and not have thought about going to the store to purchase it on our first Christmas, seeing it placed on the counter separating my kitchen from the living room, lights twinkling in the darkened room, the joy and hope that it represented.
That rain that was falling the other night, the rain I could not hear, was heard by that little Christmas tree, it’s moisture may have even soaked it’s branches and soil, I will never know and don’t really want too. I do know that someday I will again regain my sanctuary, that on those rare nights when the Los Angeles sky opens and rinses away our cities sins, I will hear the rain and I will feel comfortable again, that I will be home.