Today I un-decorated. I hate un-decorating. Most years, I have been known to cry, while un-decorating. Not because I hate it that much, but because it means that Christmas is over, and now there is positively nothing to look forward to. Thank God, and my doctor, this year, my medications are working, and I am not dwelling in the despair of Seasonal Affective Disorder….at least not yet, anyway. The un-decorating went along, relatively uneventfully. I even organized as I packed, which is totally unlike me. I also threw some things away, again, completely not like myself at all. I was beginning to think that I actually had this SAD thing licked this year. Finally! It was about time, dammit. All of those years of me crying while I packed up the Christmas decorations–how ridiculous! In fact, I thought to myself, I must have been completely off my rocker for years!
All three of my children have a Christmas Tree for their bedroom. This terrible habit began, of course, with Mini Me. He got a box of Toy Story ornaments from The Disney Store, as well as a bunch of other ornaments from The Disney Store, and if I remember correctly, he proclaimed that he wanted his very own tree for his bedroom. Since Mini Me’s every wish was either my mother-in-law’s or my mother’s command, he got a tree in his bedroom–most likely that same day or at the very latest, the next. Mini Me collected ornaments and made ornaments over the years, and soon, the little 3 foot tree was too small for his vast collection of ornaments: Toy Story, Star Wars, various sports teams and themes, etc., and his grandmother replaced his tree with a larger, 6 foot tree. Luckily, I had the foresight to save the little tree…..The Baby uses it now. When the Middle Child was born, she had to have a pink tree! I found a really cool pink metallic tree for her, but again, it was tiny, and her collection of Disney Princesses grew into peace signs and peacocks and her tree was replaced with a 6 foot pink tree, which was replaced with a much nicer 6 foot white tree last year, simply because the 6 foot pink tree was falling apart. The children absolutely love having their own tree in their bedroom. We have so many ornaments now, we need all of these trees, otherwise, there would be nowhere for the ornaments to hang! So….I un-decorated the main Family Tree just fine. F.I.N.E. with zero tears whatsoever. This is our tree with all of our random ornaments and it gets the most attention. It is also the only real, live tree in the house. And….I un-decorated The Baby’s tree just fine. F. I. N. E. with zero tears whatsoever. The Middle Child was supposed to un-decorate her own damn tree. She stays in her room all the time anyway. I gave her the ornament box thingy and she said she would do it. I meant today. Apparently, that subliminal message did not make it across the wires. Her tree is still up. I un-decorated my tree in the dining room just fine. F.I.N.E. with zero tears whatsoever. That tree has all of our special Lenox ornaments and our Baby’s First Christmas ornaments and my 12 Days of Christmas Ornaments, which are special because when JC asked me to marry him, he gave me gifts for the 12 Days of Christmas–but that is another story entirely–it also has all of our bells from all of our rides on The Polar Express. This year was our 6th year going to Bryson City, NC, to ride the Polar Express. It has been, hands down, my very favorite thing that we have ever done as a family. It is another thing that has brought me to tears, every year. The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad has an event made after the book, and you can ride in a train car, and they have waiters who sing and dance and serve hot chocolate in collector’s mugs that you get to keep, and cookies and candy, and they read “The Polar Express”, and everyone sings Christmas Carols. The train pulls into “The North Pole”, and there are lots of houses all lit up, and Santa is standing on a pedestal, waving, with some elves all around him. Santa gets on the train and comes through, speaking to every girl and boy, and gives everyone a bell from his sleigh. A photographer takes family photos and you can buy them if you want–we always do. This year, The Baby said he really did not care if we went to The Polar Express. That hurt me like he had stabbed me through the heart with a fork and twisted it around. I decided to talk to Mini Me and The Middle Child about it. I told them that if they really did not want to go to The Polar Express this year, maybe we could go to Black Friday at Third Man Records or something instead. I spoke to them separately. Both of them said, emphatically, that NO! We would be going to The Polar Express! HELL NO, I did NOT give The Baby the option of Black Friday at Third Man. I knew what he would choose! I was in no mood for his seven-year-old bullshit. I simply said nothing more and got online that night to buy our tickets. Once again, the tears rolled down my cheeks, especially as the narrator got to the part where the mother says that the bell is broken….and then the tears got exceedingly bad when the narrator said, “though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe”. And about that time, The Baby looks over at me and yells out, “MOM! WHY ARE YOU CRYING?!” Which, of course, makes the whole train car full of people look my way. Oh MY GOD. I wanted to sink into the floor. Anyway. All of this brings me full circle, back around to the fact that I DID NOT MAKE IT THROUGH MY UN-DECORATING WITHOUT CRYING TODAY! DAMMIT! I went down to Mini Me’s room, and that, my friends, was my fatal mistake. But, it had to be done! Mini Me’s tree had to be un-decorated! And if you think MINI ME was actually going to un-decorate his own tree, think again! He doesn’t even decorate his own tree! I do! Or the other kids do! I think I was crying before I even got to the door of his room. It hit me that this is the last time that I will decorate and un-decorate his tree while he is living here. Luckily, he was not in his room while I was un-decorating his tree and simultaneously sobbing. I took off the red Teletubbie–Poe. It was his favorite one. He loved the Teletubbies. I held the glass karate guy in my hands and the glass pirate ship. The Disney Christmas Tree picture frame holds a photo of Mini Me in his football uniform. I think he was 7 or 8. I wanted to reach in and pinch his cheeks. A big, juicy tear fell on it. I wiped it off with my shirt. Gene Simmons from Kiss is such a great ornament. I laughed at that one. Mini Me gave The Baby the Toy Story ornaments a few years ago, but he still has the Star Wars ornaments. I took down Darth Vader and Yoda and C3PO. Then there is the one from Allison, Mini Me’s girlfriend. She got him an ornament that is an exact replica of his guitar and case and she made exact replicas of the stickers that he has on his case–it is so awesome and thoughtful. That one made me cry a little harder. When I got to the last one, I had to sit for a minute. It was his special Polar Express Bell from Santa’s sleigh that had come in the red and white striped box. The box was sitting under Mini Me’s tree. I started laughing just remembering the story. Mini Me was in the 2nd grade. “The Polar Express” book had been turned into a movie, and it had just been released. Mini Me came home and told us that his friends were telling him that Santa was not real. I was not ready for this to happen. It was not time yet. Mini Me said that the only way that he would believe that Santa was actually real was if he got a bell from Santa’s sleigh for Christmas, just like the boy from the movie got. Well, I thought, at least he did not say he had to be picked up by the damn train just like the boy in the movie! A bell, I could find! So…I set out to find that damn bell. And find it, I did. On eBay. For $75.00 plus $15.95 shipping. What originally cost $14.95 at the Hallmark Store, cost me $90.95; HOWEVER, this damn thing was going to save Christmas! It was THE single most important bell on the fucking planet, and $90.95 was a SMALL price to pay for what it was going to mean to MINI ME! My mother-in-law and I had discussed it and we decided that she and I were just going to keep this teeny-weeny little detail between us….nobody else needed to know that this stupid thing cost $90.95. It was not sterling silver or anything. So…I replicated the note that Santa put in the box with the bell in “The Polar Express”, except I left out the part about the kid having a hole in his robe pocket, and I signed it “Mr. C”. I put it in the red and white striped box that the damn thing came in, and I tied a beautiful green satin ribbon around the box–JUST LIKE IN THE BOOK AND IN THE MOVIE. On Christmas morning, after all of the other presents had been unwrapped, I managed to sneak that damn thing under the tree without anybody seeing me do it. It had a tag with Mini Me’s real name (Jack) on it. If you could have seen his face. It was SO worth every single penny of that $90.95 and more. I’m pretty sure it bought us at least one more year. Maybe two.
The bell still rings for me. Mini Me said it still rings for him too. He also said that he will come home from college next year to go ride The Polar Express. That made me cry. Again.