The Big Picture
Every year since Julia passed to heaven, my husband, unprompted, hauls our tree and a set of plastic tubs full of Christmas ornaments down from the attic. He does this because he knows if he does not push me into the holiday, I will avoid December. Christmas is a time when the loss of Julia seeps into the planning of our holiday. We hang her stocking, I make her favorite cookie, and we continue to live, work, and socialize, assured that the story of Jesus understands. We tend to focus on the big picture.
This season, my oldest and I unwrapped wads of newspaper around 20-year-old tiny Santa Clauses with brittle beards, a dancer from the Nutcracker with a broken shoe, soccer ball ornaments. A 30-year collection of ornaments from classroom art, to baubles, picked out every year after a pancake breakfast and a 3-hour stand to see Santa. When I put up my tree it is like putting up a three D scrapbook.
Most evenings, my house is quiet. I make a salad and pot of soup for us. We watch the news, and I scroll for remodeling ideas. I often just sit in the presence of my three D memory tree. The tree winks, the white lights casting shadows, and the tree tells me stories of Christmas’ past, like the time Meredith was in pre-school and she colored her Christmas tree very, very black. A tad shy, my three years old just shrugged when asked about her artwork.
I get summoned to the pre-school director's office along with Meredith’s teachers, her black Christmas tree picture taped to the chalkboard, with the sentence in writing, “Is everything okay at home?”
We had walked a farm the Saturday before, picked out just the right tree, took pictures with it in the field, tying it to our car, living for the camera. We succeeded in the appearance of the perfect yuppie family, living that ideal 30 something moment, but failed to let the farm do their job; shake the tree with the machine to get all bugs and varmints from it. On Monday we woke up to my dusty rose circa1990 couch covered with tiny black bugs. My floor: full of bugs. The tree: Every ornament layered in bugs.
Meredith just illustrated our life: Real, and messy and covered in challenges, many self -inflicted.
The next week Meredith drew inside the lines of an angel, and colored her purple, with brown hair. I saved it. Now, 27 years later, I feel the same yarn threaded through the hole punch; there’s a little less glitter about her, but the angel continues to smile, her wing's upward towards heaven.
This paper angel hangs on our tree as a reminder of that time we brought home a tree full of bugs. Meredith’s tree picture is pressed in a book along with some of her other art somewhere in a corner of our attic. I intend to rummage through those boxes of saved art and frame that big picture of Meredith’s black tree.
Her tree is a reminder that life is not perfect, but funny, and messy, with angels wearing dresses with purple crayon outside the lines are busy watching over us.