It was 4:00 am on the dot when I woke up. Snow wisping across the driveway, and the plows yet to come through. It started yesterday and has just kept falling and falling. This holiday season feels like something I must endure when it used to be something I couldn’t wait to celebrate. Seated by the window in my pajamas with my long curly hair falling down around my shoulders and waiting and waiting to see Santa soar by in his sleigh. I don’t recall the process of giving up waiting for Santa, but I do recall the emotion. I wasn’t mad at Santa for not slipping by my house at the exact moment while I was watching out the window. I just figured he was at another house, and he would be here by first morning light.
And boy I was right.
He brought me things I had only imagined I could have, and right into my home under the lit-up Christmas tree. The cookies were gone, and my brother and I were… well, I, was astonished. Tj wasn’t so fooled.
One Christmas, while visiting Santa (he came to our house???) Tj whispered to me, “Em, that’s not really Santa.” And I said, “Why yes, it is, look at his white beard and the outfit.”
“I dare you to pull his beard off,” he said.
I looked at him like you gotta be crazy. “You kidding me?” I said. “Didn’t you see him up on the rooftop?”
And then Santa told me he had presents for me, Emmy! He said my name! And then he also had presents for my nonbelieving brother, thankless prick. When I found out that Santa wasn’t real, I still wasn’t mad. I thought, hm what a creative idea.
Going through this first holiday season without my brother has challenged me to believe in the magic of the season once again, but for a completely different reason. My siblings and I are all grown, and though I don’t have children of my own, there is still so much wonder.
Like the intricacy of snow’s crystalline structure, and the magnetism of the moon. Early morning white light and the way the North Star shines so bright. There’s the way my body freezes and chills and then is comforted by fire, heat, and the things that my loved ones say to me. There’s the flicker of my one candlelight, auburn and new. And here is this too, my words to communicate so that I don’t have to. So that I don’t have to say what I’m feeling or express the deep grief or pain that I feel. Because there are no words for how 2021 hurt me. How it was like waiting and waiting for Santa because he said he’d be there, and then just never showed. The morning light comes and the tree is as bare underneath as it was when it was first put up. It sits in a structure, without ornaments and light. It is just an evergreen tree chopped down and placed upright.
Even though life hasn’t brought the sparkle of my childhood dreams, I imagine myself sitting in front of that tree. Cut from the forest floor and brought into my home, in which it will shed its needles.
They will turn from vibrant green to yellow and brown. It will spend its few weeks inside and then it will go back underground. It will break down and fall apart. The seasons will change and with it will come new growth.
As I imagine myself sitting there on the hardwood floor, staring at this naked tree thirsting for water and cut off from what it knows yet still holding the wisdom of where it was grown, I can’t help but see. Me.