Thursday, November 21, 2013

Full Circle

Over ten years ago, I drove up to New Hampshire for the weekend, ostensibly to decorate my family's vacation home for the holidays. In the back of my SUV, I carried an oversized cardboard box with an artificial Christmas tree (some assembly required), a Tupperware container of glass ornaments, and a case of red and white wine, hand-picked for the outing, at the Hampton state liquor store (a virtual vending machine paradise that my children came to regard, euphemistically, as the candy store.) The truth is, I did plan to trim the tree, hang the stockings, and decorate the house, but I was really going away without my young family so I could drink.

At the house, I poured a glass of Merlot, ripped open the cardboard box, and to my horror, laid eyes on dozens of individually wrapped, color-coded plastic tree branches, and pages of instructions. I distinctly recall thinking, rather gleefully, "I may run out of patience, but I won't run out of wine." I inserted a lot of twisted, metal-tipped branches into pre-drilled holes that night, and I drank the way I wanted to---alone, and into the wee hours. To my surprise in the morning, the completed tree looked pretty good. My reflection in the mirror told a different story.

The memory of that winter weekend flashed back yesterday while I was standing in the fake Christmas tree aisle at Lowe's. As a child, I only knew artificial trees; my parents would never go to the trouble of displaying a real tree in the living room, but once married, with children of my own, it became tradition to tag, chop, and drag the prize home. I honored that tradition for a good, long time, but those days are behind me now. My children are grown, and it's up to me to decide which traditions to maintain, and which ones to create anew. Standing there in the aisle, I couldn't take my eyes off a 7 1/2-foot GE, pre-lit, frasier fir, looking surprisingly like the real deal. I wrestled with my decision, but I can think things through today. By the time I dragged that box up three flights of stairs into my apartment, made a cup of lemon tea, cut open the box (to blessedly find three pieces, not dozens, and a one-sided sheet of instructions), stacked the sections, and fanned out the branches, I knew---I'd come full circle.

I'm going up north again tomorrow, this time to Vermont, and I won't be alone, by golly. I'll be with a whole pack of women, sober women, women happy to be alive, celebrating this season with zest, vigor, a whole lot of laughter, and---no wine.


  1. May every day be a celebration as enlivening, invigorating, and inspiring as your distant New Hampshire memories and the anticipation of your upcoming victory sojourn to Vermont!