Dearest Rachel –
I know that technically, we do have a Christmas tree in the house. In fact, it wasn’t until Jan came in to help me clear out so much of the clutter left behind that I even took it down after Christmas 2020. But it hasn’t been brought out of the crawlspace and put up since then, and it’s not about to, to be honest.
There’s never really been a good reason, as far as I could see, as to why we should bother with decorating the house for the holidays. It’s not as if we have a large, front-facing windows to display to the neighborhood (such as it is, given how busy the street that we face is) “Hey, we’re celebrating Christmas here!” Granted, there’s the picture window in the sunroom, facing our backyard, and the neighbors behind us, but that’s never really been much of a concern for us.
Additionally, we’ve never celebrated Christmas at our house. Ever. Up until these last few years, we’d been alternating holidays between your parents and mine, with us going downstate for Christmas every other year (and in those years that we weren’t celebrating Christmas down there, we’d be there over New Year’s instead). The Christmases spent here at home were always at my folks’ house. Long story short, Santa didn’t come to our house, so there was never any point to dressing the place up to welcome him.
Not that you didn’t put in the effort, now and again. Many years, you would at least wrap the lamp post out in front of the house in lights (and often, you would alternate between lights and a velvety red ribbon). You would even wrap the railing on our backyard deck in lights; some of those are still in place to this day – despite no longer lighting up for whatever reason – neither Daniel nor I have the heart to take down your handiwork, to be honest.
To be sure, it wasn’t just a matter of being too much work for no real purpose; there isn’t a particularly good place for a tree to be in the house. The ideal place, of course, would be where the family congregates – i.e., the family room (which you and Daniel seemed to insist on calling the living room, but as my childhood experience differentiated the two, and the latter was more for receiving guests than actually hanging out and, you know, living in, I prefer the term ‘family room’) – but that’s essentially an arrangement of seats around the television set. Wherever one puts the tree will of necessity be blocking someone’s view, which is hardly ideal. Moreover, to put it slightly aside, by the door to the deck, would still obscure Daniel’s vision while also blocking access to the backyard – which, in the days when Chompers still needed to get outside for one thing or another, was an additional hassle. The sunroom, while excellent in terms of display (since this was where the rear picture window was), was only a foot or so wide in terms of passing space while you were here – to block it off meant that we would be required to detour through the kitchen to get anywhere else in the house from the dining and family rooms, and the pantry floor was already impassable for the most part.
For 2020, you settled on setting it up where the pantry emptied into the dining room. Each of the eight angular boughs were individually wrapped in lights, as was the star-crowned faux-evergreen pyramid topping the whole construction (you grew up with natural trees, but fully embraced the artificial ones that were a part of my family’s tradition; due to ease of re-use, as well as reduced wear and tear on the planet), making for a well-lit display when we would bother to plug it in and switch it on.
But for whatever reason – despite having an immense box of ornaments near the foot of your side of the bed, you didn’t bother with actually decorating the tree for that last Christmas. There was only one hanging from a branch, and that one because it was electric, powered by one of the miniature light sockets on the strand the branch was wrapped around. In keeping with our various fandoms, it was a replica of a Star Trek craft (a gift from David, my old roommate and best man) that would, when properly nudged, would emit a broadcast of Leonard Nimoy’s voice:
“Shuttlecraft to Enterprise… shuttlecraft to Enterprise. Spock here. Happy holidays. Live long… and prosper.”
Setting aside the incongruity of a Vulcan recognizing an (illogical, as any celebration might be considered by that race) Earth holiday – to say nothing of the fact that Nimoy himself was Jewish, and thus celebrating Christmas would be out of character on a meta basis (although, in fairness, he does say “happy holidays,” so that can be given a pass. Incidentally, I learned only recently that the Vulcan hand gesture was taken from a benedictive gesture performed by the rabbis at his childhood synagogue during prayer. In other words, like with most kids in church, he was looking up when he shouldn’t have been – but if he hadn’t, the world wouldn’t have that iconic greeting) – there was something forlorn about this lone ornament, calling out to a mothership that didn’t exist. Essentially, Spock was sending his greetings into the void of space, seemingly unaware that there was no one there to hear them.
Of course, it could be argued that we were there to hear them, so it wasn’t entirely in vain to broadcast them. On the other hand, Spock himself – or rather, Nimoy – would never be aware of the fact that we’d received them, and with him now gone for nearly eight years (only almost six at the time), the words merely hang there in space, just like the miniature shuttlecraft…
…yeah, I’m not sure I want to think too much more about all that.
I’m sure you’d find so many of my thoughts along these lines to be a bit silly and maudlin, especially since – if you were still here – there’d be no real loss for me to mourn, other than a gifted actor that I’d never met. You often seemed a little puzzled by my similar reaction to Boris Karloff’s final narration at the end of the Grinch cartoon, too, which was for much the same reason. But with you gone, these sorts of things come to mind more often than they should, I suppose. It goes without saying that I wish things were otherwise.
But that’s how it is, and I figured I owed you an explanation as to why, for the second year in a row, I’ve not bothered to get the tree out of the crawlspace in order to ‘deck the halls.’ It’s never been something I’ve done, and I don’t see any reason to start now.
One day, I wonder if your spirit isn’t going to haunt me into putting something up during December; if so, you’ll need to work a little harder at it than you have been.
For now, just keep an eye on Daniel and me, and wish us both luck. We’re going to need it.