Posted tagged ‘Christmas’

Tree Metaphors

December 17, 2013


Sometimes, even though it’s Christmas, you’re not going to get the thing you want most. In Toby’s case, it’s to be allowed to take all the ornaments off the tree. In my case, it’s for Shel to get well. Both of us are learning to cope with disappointment as life swats at us again and again.

DSC_7868This cancer thing makes it seem like life’s constantly sliding downhill, taking a wild ride on a slippery slope,


resolving to a downward spiral. But then, maybe people who don’t live with cancer feel that way too, sometimes, maybe even at Christmas. This year was the first time in many Christmases that I decorated the tree alone, Shel had no energy to help, and Eric, recovering from back surgery, is forbidden to crawl around under the tree, let alone get up and down off the ladder dozens of times because someone (wonder who that could have been) got a tree that is too tall to trim on one’s own two feet.


I always need to get a tree that’s taller than I am, but I guess I sometimes forget that I’m not as tall as I used to be. I don’t think I was ever nine feet tall, though, as is this year’s tree, lightly kissing the ceiling in its corner location, perfectly situated for viewing by passing boats.

DSC_7866It’s a nostalgia-fest, putting up the tree. Jordan made this ornament in kindergarten, and that was 35 years ago. In those days, Shel and I hadn’t met yet, although he’s forever wishing that we could have gotten together when he was young and healthy. Because we’ve never known a life together without cancer, and that can get pretty exhausting, even amidst the sparkle and ribbons.


We try to reflect the joy and beauty that the season calls for, but this year our happiness seems like a pale reflection of its former self.

DSC_7885My lovely pomegranate ornament reminds me far too vividly of the CT scan of Shel’s lungs, all full of spots, and I’m so sad not to be able to see it otherwise.

DSC_7870We try to store up strength for the winter, but I can’t help but feel that we’re just barely hanging on.

DSC_7869My fury at his illness is really boundless, and I would take swift and fierce action against it, if only I knew what to do.


All we can do is breathe in, breathe out, stare death in the eye, and possibly, bake some Christmas cookies. That’s the ticket, get up to my ears in baking and wrapping and giving, and quit all this pesky thinking. Cookies, coming up.

Being The Light

December 25, 2011

The darkest days of the year are behind us and today is a day to contemplate peace on earth. A day to remember to make your time on our sweet planet count, to be the light you want to see. From me to you: peace and joy in all you do.

The Gift

December 24, 2010

You guys do remember that I’m taking all these recent pictures with just one hand, right?  So, sometimes the photos are not so hot, but I post them anyway because they’re the best I could do all by myself, like a big girl, and that’s what counts to me.  And paradoxically, at the same time that I’ve been cultivating this me do it attitude, I also get daily lessons in humility that remind me how dependent I am upon others right now.

For example, it’s not only in the movies that trees fall over when you’re in the middle of decorating them.  In this case Shel had put the tree in the stand and gone off to Seattle, after securing my assurance that there was no trouble I could possibly get into while decorating the tree one-handed. But, inevitably, gravity had its way with me and I found myself with a half-decorated tree that had fallen over, and powerless to do anything about it one-handed.

An emergency phone call produced Tom and Louise who sawed and tugged and set the tree back upright.  I was beyond thrilled that they had saved the day, and they, apparently were thrilled to be called upon to help.  People really do want to help, and even though I’m more of a helper than a helpee, I now have to let myself be helped every day with the most mundane of tasks.

But I was bound and determined that I could decorate the tree by myself.  We were in Europe for the past three Christmases, so I hadn’t seen my ornaments for four years. My tree is always the least chic, most eclectic jumble imaginable.  I have this little Santa and a host of other little people that I made from an elaborate  kit back when Jordan was a baby. A red feather given to me by Kathy.

A little bunny that I made one year when I was too poor to buy any ornaments, let alone a kit to make them. Christmas tree as time travel.

My multicultural sari-clad angel has recently risen to the top, following the demise of a large gilded Mexican bird that used to reside there.

These snuggle up comfortably with large red foil spiders left from my own childhood tree, an onion ornament left from the days before I was a cook, a ferry boat ornament left from before the days when we lived on an island, a slice of gold-sprayed dried orange turned ornament, left from Jordan’s kindergarten class 30 years ago, a bit of everything from my life to date, except that there’s nothing French hanging there.  When we go back to France in the spring I’ll be looking for things to adorn next year’s tree.

But the real gift has been having this opportunity to become a child again. Still sleeping in the recliner three weeks after my surgery, this is the view from my improvised bed.  A childhood dream, the tree looming over my pillow, presents heaped at my feet, Shel to tuck me into my nest every night and turn out the light.  Shel having learned to scrunch gel into my hair, choose my earrings and fit them into the little holes in my ears.  Shel who put a glass of fresh water by my bed every night, next to a little bowl of pills. Shel who chops the onions and does the laundry, Shel who lays the fire and plays the guitar when I feel like singing.

All this and much, much more Shel does for me every day that I may regain the full and painless use of my shoulder. He cares for me as you do for a child, but he treats me like an adult. The shoulder is my gift from Shel, and Shel is my gift from the universe. It’s ok, Santa, there’s no need to stop at our house, my gift’s already here.