i haul them out every year, and every year i wince.
they are my godawful bows. squished. old. tied, perhaps, by someone tipsy–or at least you’d think so, judging from the odd knot there in the middle and the strands that fly like hair in need of hair-goo.
they are my trademark red-plaid bows.
every year, when all the ancient ornaments are hoisted to the bough, when the red-feathered cardinal is twisted to the tippy top, when all the wooden cranberries are strung, i reach for the old stride-rite shoe box. i lift the lid, and there they are: a mash of tipsy bows.
a hundred years ago, just on my own, in a fit of my-first-christmas, i stopped by the nearest ribbon rack and bought a roll or three of red-plaid strands, and another one or two of bright red velvet. i picked up some skinny green wire, too, long as i was at it.
then i sat beside my tree and tied and tied. in fact, i was making up for lack of ornament. when you first start out in the christmas department, you’ve not got a lifetime of ornaments to call your own.
not got the little wooden nurse, the one once given me by a beloved pediatric patient. not got the sequined pine cone dipped in glue and glitter by my once-upon-a-three-year-old. not got the sweet red pocketbook–the size of a dolly’s and clutching a lucky penny–once handed me by my brother’s long-lost girlfriend.
and back then at the beginning, lest i subscribe to some naked christmas club, in which the ol’ evergreen was bare but for all the twinkly lights, i had to fill things out with the gobs and gobs of bows.
year one, it worked. so much so i barely went to bed, if i recall, just sat there all night long, admiring the heck out of my knack for tying knots.
but ever since…well, see…
every year, come, oh, february, when i get around to dismantling that old tree, i unhinge the bows and stuff them back where they belong, in the shoebox that never was quite roomy enough for all that red-plaid overabundance.
this then would be some 29 years later, which means those bows have spent the better part of 319 months utterly squished and rather cramped besides.
problem is, when you’re a bow, no one hears your cries for help, and thus you are simply stranded.
so you do what any self-respecting bow would do: you protest. you get a little cockeyed. you unloose your knot. you decide you’ll do anything but act or look quite like a bow.
you decide, after all those months in darkness, that you’ll subject your captor to a little taste of what she so surely deserves: you will humiliate the heck out of her, should she be so tone-deaf, so tasteless, as to hang you out in public.
you now know, i suspect, why all the trees in the lot cringe when i walk by. you understand, i suppose, why at my house the fir is cowering in the corner.
it’s the godawful bows causing all the trouble.
if only i’d give ‘em up and spring for new ones.
but, geez, don’t they get it: you don’t just up and dump all that history.
why, those bows have seen it all, apartment after apartment, chapter after chapter.
the little house where i was tucked upstairs, with the downstairs landlords who stuffed me in their pickup truck and drove us to a far-off farm so we could chop a spindly tree. never mind that they were all dead, the trees, once we got there.
the old victorian where both my boys were born, where each one–barely old enough to wobble without flopping–got plunked on the couch so i could plug in the lights and watch their eyes go gaga.
heck, those red-plaids even made the move from the gritty city to out here where it’s all leafy and so not-urban.
thus, despite the cries of protest from my boys, the ones who claim they’re ashamed to call that tree their own, the bows come out, year after year after year.
and do not pass this around, but even i’m a tad embarrassed. even i deduce the need for a dash of christmas sprucing.
matter of fact, i was all alone this year when it came time to do the bows. and, even though i didn’t see another soul around, i heard the words, “godawful bows,” come out of someone’s mouth.
so now they, too, know the awful truth.
somehow, though, i find it fitting that mine’s a tree that’s far from picture perfect. and therein lies in truest beauty.
do you have something unsightly that, every year, is part of your tradition? something that perhaps is all the dearer for its odd shapes, and bumps and bruises?
as we move now into “year three, the chair,” i’ve not quite decided just what my routine will be. till i figure that out, i’ll keep writing on wednesdays. but perhaps, i’ll switch to fridays. no matter which, you know the table’s always here, so it doesn’t much matter, most likely.