With the pumpkins tossed into the old garden and the forlorn Pilgrim packed away with Thanksgiving memories, I am ready to make merry and decorate this old house.
Kathy and I borrow Aaron’s truck and drive out to Gary Stroh’s for apples and our Christmas trees. It is cold on this afternoon as we follow Gary among the small tree forest he has created for wanderers such as us. There are other families as well, only they seem to find their trees quicker than we do. Gary holds the trees up one by one while intermittently going into the shop to sell apples and cider, but always returning. We finally find our trees, and I laugh at the two of us tramping through his little forest much like the Baldwin sisters from “The Walton’s.”
Gary saws the bottom off the trees and we both save ours. I use mine as a token of thankfulness. When I have a table full of friends we pass around the Christmas tree piece and each one in turn shares a story, a poem or a prayer.
Gary puts the trees into the truck, and we go in to pay, gathering up apples as well. This is my first year to buy my tree from Gary. Without family, it felt a little lonely to go out to Booth’s.
We buy poinsettias from Rural King and head on home. Kathy and I haul her tree up to the porch. I insist that I can handle mine alone. Oh, how wrong I am. Hmm … now when was the last time I carried a tree into my house? Usually my boys do it for me so it is no wonder I carried it apex first through my front door. The first half of the tree fits nicely under the old lintel, but then we (the tree and I) are stuck. I pull and pull as in the Russian tale of the enormous turnip. With branches snapping off and almost losing my front door as well, I finally get it inside. Just then Aaron shows up at my door and the two of us put it in the stand. He can’t stay as he has plans with his family.
I decorate alone. I haul down boxes of lights and antique ornaments and find little notes hidden among the treasures. These notes are hand written to Santa in days of yore and Santa’s returned messages. I must cry. There is no other way. I give myself permission to think about those days on the farm with three little tow-headed boys and the merriment we all enjoyed.
The rest of the house receives bows and lights and, in the end, all is well.
School finishes with a flurry this week with finals and saying farewell to my classes. These young people have amazed me this semester … their youth, their enthusiasm, their humor. I believe it is true that students can teach us more than we will ever teach them.
I bring in Tom’s doughnuts to the early morning finals and return projects and such. We do our work and finish all the tasks, except for one final event. I tell them to put on their winter garb (they were warned ahead of time!), and we head out to the courtyard. It is 7 degrees in one class. In the other class the snow falls like feathers from the sky. We make a circle and I pull out the last of the poetry books and read to them. I tell them about the movie “Dead Poets Society” with Robin Williams. They are cold, but they listen in the silence of the morning to e.e. cummings, Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas and others.
Curious students as well as last year’s students walk by; some stay to listen, but the cold gets them in the end and they meander off. We are all cold, but I don’t want them to forget this class so I must end with a memory.
It is finally time to let them go. I thank them for their good work, for Poe night, and we say farewell.
I run errands in town and arrive home at dusk. I plug in all the lights in this old house. Memories from the past haunt our every move, but this is the day we are given. With the tea kettle whistling on the stove, I find the end piece from my Christmas tree and make a wish upon the Christmas star.