Once again, the Douglas Fir is hauled out of the basement, a steerage
muscled, drug through narrow confines of the sheet-metal furnace and
the squat, empty cavity of the deep-freeze that hasn’t been filled with
butchered goodies since Skogland’s Meat Locker went bankrupt in ’09.
Verdant synthetics are then pulled apart, sectioned to maneuver the hard
angles of the stairwell. A minced version of ‘‘troll the ancient Yule tide carol’’
is sung by my boys with mocked aversion as each dust covered branch
of the fake is lifted through the doorway where my wife waits in ritual
with a plastic sprig of mistletoe. Sensing my caustic mood, she leans in
two-faced; one with a pert smooch, the other with breathy words spoken
like a headmistress behind closed doors: don’t you dare fuck this up
for the children! After assemblage and dressing, we step back to admire,
point out a few favorites from the decades of ornamental accrual.
Here’s the origami angel atop the tree, spray-painted gold to resemble
the lost original we’ve yet to replace. Here’s the little drummer boy a
third of the way down, his likeness melted into knockoff crystal And here’s
the earth’s most most commercial symbol of peace, oldest ornament received
as a kid― a “genuine” porcelain dove engraved with holiday’s namesake:
Christmas 1978. Across the road that day ( behind the white picket fence we
used as a javelin in summer to skewer bird and frog- heads like they were bait
for low flying shrikes ), the lumberyard ceased groaning, so Elvis and Sinatra
crooned from the portable turntable as the adults got scotched-up. That year
Santa appeared in the back entry and winked behind his wool wig and beard.
Though grandpa was absently forrgotten, old St. Nick stood steadfast in strange,
yet comely assurance. Merry Christmas, little boy! he belted out, though
the long syllables were hyper-extended, and the hard consonants turned
to mush― one long river of a holiday salutation off the slur of his tongue.