Pinning Points

Every November, i have the same argument: “Put up the damn Christmas tree!”  This is followed immediately by “What’s the point?”  Sometimes, i have this argument out loud.  By myself.  For several minutes… Because it amuses me.

Never one to go overboard with decorating, i’ve always kept the holiday stuff at a reasonable level. Never put out more than i could take down on a cold, January afternoon. As the kids grew, there were a few standards they wanted to see – the “mouse countdown” calendar, Santa’s Marching Band, and of course, the random collection of weird shit on our tree. 

The other family tradition?  Once the tree is assembled and decorated, we must stand beside it and say “It’s the most beautiful Christmas tree ever.  Just like last year…”  The kids often delivered this line in monotone, with corresponding eye-roll. 

The tree itself? For the past 15 years, it’s usually been the same artificial tree – assembled branch by branch. It looks good, but never as nice as the real ones we’ve murdered purchased from time to time.  And it seems that i am always near tears when i’m putting it up, or taking it down. 

So why the fuck do i do this?

Holidays provide easy “pinning points” in our lives.  i mean, you don’t sit there on some random May 15th and say “damn, i remember May 15th from four years ago…”.  It just doesn’t work that way.  So when that damn tree is put up, or comes down, i am overcome by memories of over two decades of tree assembly or deconstruction.  And all of the emotions that were present at the time.

Every year i tell myself “Fuck it.  Don’t do it.”  But i give in… and it usually feels right after it’s up.  Sometimes i tell myself it’s for the kids.  Although they say it doesn’t matter whether there’s a tree or not, i suspect it represents a pinning point for them as well.  Sometimes it’s just because i’m not ready to become one of those people who drags out a small, fiber optic tree and says “Voila!”  That’s so my Mother…

This morning.  Removing the ornaments.  Smiling at the goofy shit* we’ve had on the tree for years.  Groaning at the hideously ugly** ornaments Mom has given me – which i dutifully place on the back of the tree.  Branch by branch.  Moment by moment.  Year after year.  Stuffing the scratchy synthetic wires into the large cardboard box that will sit unnoticed on a shelf in my garage for the next 11 months.  Carefully taped shut to keep out spiders.

Remembering the tree assembly from 2006.  Knowing at the time it would be the last holiday we would be spending together as a foursome – a pseudo-family***.  Having a ridiculous fever of unknown origin**** but plugging through it anyway…  The Girl was sailing through Europe during her Semester at Sea.  The Boy and his girlfriend lending me a hand as i wheeled around the tree in a rolling desk chair to conserve energy…

Flashing forward to an unknown future.  Knowing that choices i’ve made in my personal life are far-reaching.  And will bring moments of darkness, along with the freedom i crave.  Letting this knowledge wash over me like a scalding shower.  Branch by branch.  Moment by moment.  Blasting through year after year.  Tossing aside the idea of getting a gigantic 12′ pre-lit artificial tree for next year.  It wouldn’t be the same…

Pinning points.  Our lives woven around them.  Sometimes a beautiful tapestry.  Sometimes ragged, uneven web…

image sourced from:

* the traditional first ornament is a miniature 6-pack of beer.  we’ve got an alien spaceship, painted pine cones, holographic glasses… silliness abounds…

** she gives each of us two gold-plated “collector” ornaments each year.  Some of them are hideous – including the gold-plated mini-van.  Seriously.  A mini-van?  it’s like the people who have to come up with new ornaments for the series are sitting around saying “Holy Fuck.  We’re out of Christmas shit.  Let’s start doing cars…”.

*** Our divorce was final in August of 2006, but it was quite amicable.  We agreed to spend that holiday together to soften the transition.  The Girl was 20, and The Boy was 17…

**** At the time, the doc thought it might be malaria (after a meet-up with The Girl in Vietnam and Cambodia).  It was only mono that i contracted in the Cambodian jungle, but i didn’t get that diagnosis until early December.  Around the time i was diagnosed with breast cancer…  Sucky month, eh?

25 thoughts on “Pinning Points

  1. Oh wow – what a beautiful and touching post this is. So intensely personal to your own life and immediately relatable my own as well. So true. And the reason I could not put out Christmas things this year, no Christmas music, very, very few Christmas movies and no tree was because I did not want to remember this year in future years. Not that I didn’t enjoy the time with my family, but that I knew in future years I would look back on this one and just cry from grief. I did not want this pinning point.

  2. I realized taking down the tree this year just how long I’ve had some of these ornaments, some before my girls were born. It really put things into perspective…and made me go look for the damned application for AARP again…. *mutter*

  3. Yes, not only are our tree and ornaments repeats of the last 5-7 years, but so are the wilted strings of blue garland. They do bring flashes of Christmases past, and despite whether they’re good or bad flashes, they’re part of our history and what makes us, well, us.

    Anyway, my daughter wants me to help her take down the tree today. Can’t she take it down herself? I mean, she put it up! I only did the staircase hoopla. Geez, they still require your assistance even at 30, ya know? I guess I will be a good mama and help.

    Happy new year, Daisyfae.


  4. Sounds like December 2006 was really sucky. Newly divorced with mono and breast cancer? Cripes, it’s a wonder you don’t hide in a monastery for the whole month of December these days. And I’m sorry about the hideous gold-plated ornaments, too, but what do you expect from the trailer park?

  5. Totally with you on this one, Daisyfae. My Christmas plans this year fell through in a big way, so I debated on whether to put up the tree.

    I did. If I hadn’t, life would have seemed a bit less pinned.

  6. Daisyfae

    Pinning Points – I believe there are two varieties: Macro and Micro PP.

    The MacroPP are points like marriage, birth of a child, divorce, death of a loved one, or the diagnosis of cancer.

    The MicroPP are the birthdays, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

    They wear on our fabric or tapestry of life. Sometimes the fabric is displayed, sometimes it is cleaned, other times it is roughened and made uncomfortable, and sometimes wholes are punctured never to be repaired.

    But the tapestry is still present and will go into an uncertain future. Many will see the tapestry and call it ugly from the stains and wholes. Others will see the tapestry and look through the wholes to see a new world. Yet others will delight in the cleaned images.

    The Pining Points increase the tapestry’s character and the tapestry will disclose new worlds through the wear, stains, and wholes.

  7. So very true. And so very well written. After all the commercialism and carry-on and indigestion (emotional as well as physical), we are left with the memories. The stages of our life. Thank you.

  8. amber – your strategy makes sense. there may come a day when i don’t want to associate something with a particular life event. by taking control of it – well, you did something constructive. here’s to a much better 2009 for you!

    dolce – never. it’s just withdrawl symptoms. no liquor since wednesday night… beer doesn’t count, right? *sneaky hug back*

    awalkabout – sneaks up, doesn’t it? realized today that i’ve been doing my own tree since 1980 when i left home for university. although i no longer decorate with “roach clips” tied with festive ribbons…

    KJ – yep. life is improvisational dance composed of who we are, where we’ve been, and what we’ve done… i’m sure your daughter just wanted your company. maybe for old times sake…

    silverstar – i remember being numb. clinical, cold and numb… with the occasional bout of the “you’ve got to be shitting me?” giggles thrown in for good measure. but i also remember thinking “it could be so much worse…”. and know now, just as i knew then, that it’s true… And some of the gold ornaments aren’t horrific…. it’s the thought and all…

    headbang8 – rationally, it shouldn’t make a difference. but i’ve never been sorry i’ve done it… it sometimes just overwhelms me… maybe it’s pheromones. scent memory? glad you got some pinning…

    BLT – LOVE the “macro” and “micro” dissection… and yes, perfect fabric – untested, unused, and unworn – isn’t particularly interesting, is it? thanks… and for dinner!

    tysdaddy – thank you. this one wasn’t easy…

    archie – thank you, too… it is as though we feel the emotions of every holiday we’ve known as we muck through the month of December.

    annie – thanks. why i’ll never be a writer? i couldn’t do this on a daily basis… and i lack the imagination for fiction. looking forward to reading your book someday – and have some degree of appreciation for what it must take for you to tell your story…

    stephanie – thank you. yes…. this is why i’m out here, self-medicating in the ether. taking a moment, making an effort, to organize and articulate thoughts and feelings. i felt marginally better after the ‘hoark’… expect the full cloud to lift by morning…

    unbearable banishment – nothing wrong with that! i enjoy many of the trappings of the holidays… especially the endless supply of home made goodies that magically appear on every countertop within arms reach!

  9. I wonder if man of the stone age got all misty during the holidays? Did Thog sit in front of the fire and say to his mate, “You know Winter Solstice not the same since I was a kid. It more sad now, LOOK OUT SMILODON!”

    I hope so. Because the holidays torment me, too.

  10. i like x-mas lights, particularly in pubs, they make me smile, i also remember to celebrate on the days my favorite authors died, even better than holidays usually cuz i’m the only one celebrating, great post by the way.

  11. Excellent post. I love the trappings of this holiday, but this is the first year I didn’t put any of my many trees in a long while. Just too much going on in my heart for that, although I can relate to the odd ornament thing. Our tree has everything from Wizard of Oz ornaments to Star Trek to homemade geegaws picked up at yardsales, but we don’t have a gold-plated mini-van.

  12. uncle keith – i’m thinking bumper stickers. i mean, you already have your own religion… oh, and you made me google smilodon. which reminds me of why i don’t really want a cat…

    kono – thanks… and i love the fairy lights, too. especially when there’s snow outside. i may start celebrating April 11th. i still miss Mr. Vonnegut…

    squirrelqueen – i can offer you a deal on a gold-plated minivan. complete with ugly tree strapped to the roof, and a stupid wreath on the grille… here’s to a better holiday for you in 2009.

  13. but, in the end, you survived it. and another pinning point established for future repeats of celebrating the holiday which you know in your heart you will do. may the pinning points get better and better each year from here.

  14. For years, my sister and I argued about who would get to decorate the tree. It was always, “but you did it last year!” “No I didn’t, you did”, until one year, I said “Fuck it, it’s more hassle than it’s worth. You do it”. She instantly lost interest. It turns out the argument was the *real* tradition, not the actual decorating part.

  15. gnukid – yeah. my first christmas day flying solo (at least until 7pm)? pretty sweet… by staying home, and avoiding extended family, i reduced my blood pressure by at least 20 pts…

    alex – nothing says christmas like a ball tree! next year, i may have to photograph the ugly ornaments… i looked for pics of them online, but nowhere to be found…

    ginny – thanks… not sure where these come from sometimes. this one? had to stop taking down the tree and start to hack it up…

    nursemyra – thank you! here’s to 2009, and what lies ahead! xx

    kyknoord – you totally did it last year. [stamps foot] No fair! Mooooooooooooooom!

  16. Pingback: Time Traveling « Trailer Park Refugee

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