As Freud Would Say…

January 24, 2012


In 2005, I finally took my Christmas Tree down just before the deadline for taxes on April 15th. Yes, it had been up for four months. I think I was attempting to extend the Christmas season through February and March until Spring arrived and with it, the crocuses and daffodils – my multihued assurance of a resurrected life. For me, Spring flowers are that promise.

My mother died that year in the early morning hours of December 26th. I spent that Christmas Eve by her side, watching her chest rise and fall with diminishing breath, the morphine having done its job to eradicate her pain. I spent Christmas Day, watching the color of her skin change from pink to pallid gray as her life slowly ebbed, then ceased. It seemed as if I breathed in and when I breathed out, she was gone. Her death was like her: a gentle whisper, a hush. I could almost see her hooked arthritic finger poised in front of her lips, gently reproving my grief with a, ”Shhhhh…it’s OK.” It was 2:10 am and the vigil was over.

Death is a busy thing. There are people to call, documents to peruse, bills to pay, arrangements to be made; all of it done in a state of mind that would resemble catatonia if it weren’t for the sobbing spasms that grip your gut and pitch your body into contortions at the most inappropriate times. Her dying had been the focus of my life for close to a year. Her dying had become my life. Now that she was gone, I stood there in the empty house and didn’t know what to do with myself anymore. And so I did what anyone else would do under the circumstances: I checked the water level in the Christmas Tree stand. It was empty.

Seven feet of Scotch Pine laden with hundreds of lights and tens of ornaments, requires frequent hydration. It’s a thirsty organism and this one had been, understandably, neglected. I filled the teakettle with tap water and poured it into the base of the tree, then because I had been awake around the clock for days, tried to get some sleep. The next morning I checked the tree again and noticed it had already consumed the water from the day before. I watered it again and kept watering it until the days turned into weeks, December turned into January, January into February, February into March and March into April. For some reason, I couldn’t allow the thing to die. I needed to keep it alive.

The tree had become my mother.

I don’t know what Freud would have to say about that, but most of my friends thought it strange, as did my family, as did my co-workers and anyone else who happened into my living room where the tree stood, dwarfing my furniture. Some asked me outright, what it was still doing there. Some pretended to ignore its existence, as if to mention it would disturb my fragile relationship with reality. Others found it eccentrically interesting, like pasting shoes to one’s forehead would be interesting. Still, some found it fun.

As the first crocuses of the season that year peeked their purple and yellow flowering heads through the soil, and the April 15th tax deadline loomed, I finally took the ornaments and lights off the tree, carted it through the house, down the steps and out to my car. Then I tied it atop the roof and brought it to the landfill. By that time, the Christmas Tree section was no longer accepting trees. On the drive home, I left it in the woods.

This year I bought my first artificial tree; nothing to keep watering, nothing to keep alive. Maybe I am becoming healthier?

But…today is January 24th and my tree is still up…

Hmmm…

As Freud would say, “Ziz girl needs TREEtment.”

Moon Ladders

January 23, 2012


A few wintered nights ago, the full Wolf Moon emerged from the horizon of Cape Cod Bay casting its yellow and orange upon the sea. It was a huge moon, the biggest I’ve ever seen, its size dwarfing the landscape and its light rendering the black January sky, almost palpable. A multitude of stars pierced the darkened heavens like peepholes into another, brighter world. It was beautiful.

I was there walking on the beach with one of my favorite companions, seven-year-old Alissia Rose. She has skin the color of rich Mocha Latte, a smile I get easily lost within and an innocent heart that is sometimes the only thing I can trust. She keeps me present and sane. On this night, she looked up at me in the way only seven-year-olds pondering the deep things of life will do and asked, “I want to catch the moon. How can we catch the it?”

“I don’t know. How can we catch the moon?” I questioned back, not wanting to admit I hadn’t a clue.

She squinted her eyes into the vastness before us where the moon hung suspended by unseen physics equations that belie its beauty, and excitedly exclaimed, “I know!”

“You do?”

“Yes, I do!” she repeated now jumping up and down and as certain as her seven-year-old heart could be about anything, then began to share her discovery with me: “What you do is get a moon ladder, put it up there against the moon, climb up it, put the moon in your pocket and climb back down!”

I was amazed by her brilliance and blessed by her creativity. And then a hint of melancholy crept in to threaten the moment. I was already heartbroken by her eventual disillusionment when she realizes that there are no such things as moon ladders and never will be. Life isn’t that simple or that easy.

We stood together there on the beach, each in our own separate worlds: she climbing moon ladders and me wrapped in my painful, practical cynicism. We were silent. Then it occurred to me that disillusionment might be one of God’s greatest gifts, if we allow it. Eventually, it replaces moon ladders with aeronautics and spaceships and makes dreams solid and real.

Later, we reverently placed a crystal pitcher of water on the porch where the moon’s rays suffused it with its light, then went to bed catching the moon while we slept.

In the morning she looked at me from across the breakfast table, raised her glass to her lips, smiled that smile that takes me to a gazillion better places, and drank.

Ya’ know, maybe – just maybe – you really can catch the moon.

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