Sunday, December 21, 2008

Day three hundred and fifty four ... Wish you were here.

Back in May I wrote about a strange habit I had.

I wrote how there was a tree in my old neighborhood that I used to "water" with the first ounce or two of vodka from whichever sized bottle I'd bring back from the package store.

I used to talk to the tree for a minute or two before moving on. Then I'd bring the bottle home and forget all about the Drinking Tree until the next time we crossed paths, so to speak.

It was one of the stranger of my tendencies. Not that it worried me--certainly not too much worried me on the surface not too long ago.

But, it seems now I have a different kind of Drinking Tree in my midst, and this one has an almost unquenchable thirst--almost.

My Christmas Tree.

I had forgotten how much work they are.

I forgot all about the fun task of crouching down, checking to see how much water it had drank, then filling the pan up with tap water and crouching down again to awkwardly pour the lifeblood into the decorative, metal receptacle. And, of course, the lovely state of affairs upon returning to an upright position completely covered in sticky green needles and/or an ornament or two.

And this is one of the first responsibilities I was given some thirty odd years ago.

Well it looks like I've got the job again.

My tree drinks about a quart a day. Not too bad for something that has a shelf-life of about a month and a half. Shh ... don't say a word if you happen to find yourself in its midst in the near future. Its kind of got a complex.

I'm not quite ready to start thinking about getting a pet--not with all this new furniture--complete with tasty wooden legs and leather cushions ready for the gnawing and tearing respectively. But my Christmas Tree is a good step in the direction of having a dependent. It needs me to give it food, and in return it makes me feel good when I see that it is safe and sound.

It is my temporary identity. When people go by my house they see it in the window. Lots of people have them in my neighborhood in various colors and styles. Some are balsams; some firs. Some have colored lights; some white. Some have garlands; others tinsel. Others still, have a combination.

And every year, around this time, people all over the world become guardians for a season.

It just seems fitting that my tree this year is thirsty. It's showing me that it can drink--that it needs to drink--to stay vibrant. And so I water it daily, with a big Revereware copper-bottom pan that I got from my mom's, full of tap water. I pour it in and I can almost see it smile a satisfied smile. It has three strings of warm lights on it all evening long, I can hardly blame it.

Speaking of lights ...

Let me tell you all the story of ... The Luminaria ...

My town, Florence, MA, has a tradition that's been going on for a few years now. Residents buy these Luminaria kits from local vendors, and on the Saturday before Christmas they put little bags with lit candles in them outside of their houses and on their streets.

I guess other places do this kind of thing too, but I've never been part of too many other places traditions, so this is all new and exciting to me.

I had every intention of purchasing one of these kits yesterday in preparation of said event.

But, before I was able to, a knock came on my door and two of the neighbor's children presented me with this box for my house. They were adorable in their winter outfits with big, honest, joyful smiles on their red little faces.

I was so overcome with emotion I almost just broke down right there on the doorstep.

Instead, I hugged them, thanked them, and told them I'd see them later. They smiled, turned, and ran down the street, as kids are wont to do.

I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop--for this all to be a dream, or to realize I'm in some kind of faux/Disney/gated community that is being monitored by men and women in uniforms and headsets underneath the village grounds. Or, worse yet, to get some kind of bill for "Community Acceptance Fee" for an exorbitant amount of money--but both shoes are still firmly tied to my feet and they seem to be accompanying me on some amazing experiences.

My buddy, Paul, helped to safely light all ten bags.

Yep. It's me. See me right there? That's me.

Last month, my cousin, Heather, had sent me flowers as a housewarming gift. The vase had a few smooth stones placed at the bottom--ten, to be exact. Just enough to put in each one of these bags of fire to keep them from blowing over. How perfect.

So, what to do with ten white bags with lit candles in each one?

Why, carefully try not to burn the house down while you bring them out to the entrance way and place them with care.

And the view from inside: simply sublime.

So, part 1. is taken care of: leave unattended bags of lit candles lining the main egress.

What to do next? How about go to a party?

We hustled on down to our friend Jill and Brian's place for some delicious food, complete with some of the finest quiche I have ever had, and chocolate pomegranate tort that astounded and confused my taste buds. They are still recovering.

We headed on out to the Civic Center where people were congregating.

It's behind this little island. This is to prove that I, in fact, do live in a town called Florence, and am not just recycling colorized stills from classic Christmas movies.

And so, we made it to the place where there was a bonfire, a bunch of friendly people, a band playing Christmas classics, free hay rides, popcorn, coffee, tea, and ...

... doughnuts, of course.

Lots and lots of doughnuts.

And Paul and I just sat there and marveled at it all.

We talked about how, in our respective hometowns, on either side of the state, that years ago in a different time, people would come out and celebrate community and life and giving. And it's amazing to see how the world has changed. We like to collect these images on postcards and recreate them in movies and look at them and say, "Man ... things used to be different back then." 

But its not every day that you could feasibly hold up a postcard that is an image of the center of town at Christmastime from a hundred years ago, and compare it to the scene a hundred yards in front of you, and the only thing that is markedly different is the price of the stamp you'd need to send it to someone who you wish could be there with you.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a very thirsty tree in the other room that is staring at me with a concerned look on its face.

No need to be alarmed. 

I'm just a bit weird, that's all.

Thanks for reading,



Anonymous said...

It is a wonderful life Freddy...When your Christmas tree shows you gratitude for keeping it alive, and children greet you with the means to be part of a tradition, and friends come across the state to share the experience, and people a state a way wish they could have too...It is a wonderful I must go, I have no tree to water , but I do believe I have heard a bell ring. ;)

Anonymous said...

ps...I got so caught up in the luminious moment I forgot to say...Shine on ;)

luvrandr said...

It is so nice to see you starting your own traditions in your new house in your new town. The luminarias look so beautiful. We don't do it around here, but I know they do down in Westerly RI where my in-laws live. It gives everything an old fashioned appearance. Everyone needs what I call a Fred Flinstone moment, when you put your foot out and stop the car. We are too often in a hamster wheel and forget to stop and enjoy the season. Looks like you just had that opportunity. Christmas brings out the kid in us all, and it is nice to reminisce about those days that were more carefree ( at least that is how my memory perceives them now). Ah those Halcyon Days!!
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

guess said...

This is getting old..but I'll say it again... "How lovely.."

ina said...

hey alex,

thank you for another wonderful post.

i thought you'd like to meet my tree and see what the girls and i did for solstice.

merry merry, friend.