I finally took my Christmas tree down. It was only a week past New Year’s – not so bad – but I am always acutely aware of how long my tree has been up after the holiday, and not because the needles are dropping faster than schoolchildren during flu season. See, it all started when I was a kid. It was a tradition to put up the tree every year around my mom’s birthday, since it was 2 weeks before Christmas. She’d leave it up at least until New Year’s Day, and surely a few days to a week after.
One year that Christmas tree was still standing in the living room in all its lighted glory, falling needles be damned, in mid-February. I was in 10th grade. No big deal, right?
As it happened, I was asked out on a date with one of the wrestlers I cheered for. My first “real” date where the boy picks you up in his car and takes you somewhere. He was a senior. I was nervous. Then, the night of the date I realized, oh my God, our Christmas tree is still up. I panicked. I asked my mom to turn the tree lights off. But I was worried. We had a driveway that circled the back of the house to the garage and out the other way. No one who knows us ever uses the front door, so I figured I’d just turn off the front porch lights and light the back porch – surely this boy would follow the light, right? Wrong. I saw him pull into the driveway and I waited in the kitchen for the knock that would never come.
Then I heard it. Knock, knock. On the front door. This kid had walked up, and was now standing, on our front porch in the dark. Did he not see the porch light on the back door? More panic. My mom was all like, so what? So, I let him in and prayed he wouldn’t notice the darkened tree behind the door. If he did, and I’m sure he did (how does one not notice a Christmas tree in the middle of someone’s living room in February?), he never said a word. That is – he never said a word to me.
So the following week in school, one of the other wrestlers on the team spotted me walking to class and called out, hey Tara! Merry Christmas! And, although I don’t really remember the feeling of being mortified, I’m sure my 15-year-old self changed 15 shades of red. It was perhaps the longest running joke of the year, and many of the other wrestlers enjoyed wishing me a happy holiday as well. Thankfully I learned to laugh at myself and that moment faded away as quickly as the boy did.
And so – having been
scarred for life the object of a good laugh, I have never left my own tree up past January 10th. Thank you wrestlers of my 10th grade year, thank you boy whose name would’ve been forgotten otherwise, thank you Mom who left the tree up too long and changed the course of my Christmas tree celebration for life.