I don't usually wait until Jan. 8 to take the tree down. My family has a tradition of leaving the tree up until New Year's Day and taking it down as we watch the bowl games.
I didn't have a chance to do that on New Year's Day, so my goal was to get it down on Saturday. That goal got wiped out as soon as I found myself nursing a huge battle wound. I needed something pretty to look at through my tears.
Saturday turned into Sunday, which turned into Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and there I was sitting on the couch Thursday morning trying to urge myself to get up and start removing the ornaments. After a pep talk from a friend, I decided it was time to get the house back in order, which meant cleaning the kitchen, picking up the clothes that were littering pretty much the whole upstairs and finally taking down the tree.
I have a hard enough time letting go of a Christmas tree. I can accept that the holiday is past. I have no problem taking down the outdoor lights. But there's something about getting rid of the tree -- I know my living room is going to feel a whole lot more empty and smell a whole lot more like dog as soon as the tree is gone.
Add to that the pain of getting rid of what had been a source of comfort in the past few days. It was bright and shiny, decked with ornaments from my childhood that made me think of nothing but happiness.
Of course he helped me buy the tree and string the lights and hang the ornaments.
As I took down, one by one, each ornament, each breath of mine felt heavier and my head got lighter. I could feel the panic setting in. It was like the gravity of it all was going to pull my heart and lungs into my stomach.
I sat down, took some deep breaths, checked my e-mail, talked to my mom online and then pushed through it -- quickly ripping down the garland, the lights, the star.
Actually disposing of the tree was a whole other issue. Every year that I've had one, he's been around with his pick-up truck, and we've just tossed it in the back and hauled it to the nearest tree collection site. I'm sure I could have found someone to help me haul it, but at that point I was running up to a deadline of having to show up to work, so it was too late to call. I just didn't think about it. I'm not in the habit yet of thinking about these things.
So I shoved it in the trunk of my little Mazda and drove it ever so slowly across town to the tree recycling site. I pitched it onto the pile and sort of tapped it on its trunk as if to wish it well.
Getting rid of the tree meant bidding farewell to a holiday season which was filled with so much happiness but brought one of the most painful shocks of my life. Sure, I want to get past that but it just seemed like one more harsh reminder that it's over. It's actually over. Not the holiday, but us.
I've been working on getting rid of him from my world, but I haven't made it very far. Immediately after I last spoke to him, I shoved every picture I'd had displayed of him and I in a box in the deepest corner of a closet. I broke up with him on Facebook. I hid a stuffed Sully monster he gave me for Christmas a few years ago -- the one with a one-eyed snowman on his sweater.
I haven't touched the Wii since that day, but as soon as I do I'm deleting his Mii. It looks too hauntingly like him to keep. I need to rearrange my cell phone speed dials. I've pressed No. 3 so many times, there's a chance I might do it automatically if I think of something that needs to be shared with a friend. I know there are some personal items of his hiding in my closet and bathroom, but I haven't had the courage to look for them. There's also that key of his on my key ring ...
I'm not trying to hang on to him, really I'm not. It's just that every one of these things that needs to be done stirs a whole other pot of memories, both good and bad, and brings a fresh wave of pain. And lord knows, I already have plenty to go around.