Maybe I was thinking about the hundreds (thousands?) of student manuscripts my eyes had burned through this semester. Maybe I was thinking about the fact that I could actually hold my mother or best friend in my imagination for minutes at a time then get on with the next thing. Or maybe it was because I hadn't written anything other than a critique in weeks, and needed to make something or else my head would blow off. Whatever it was, I needed a tree--now. We drove out to a tree lot on the Sag Harbor turnpike. A cold heavy rain turned the tree lot to slop. Though it was just five PM, it felt like midnight. "What are you doing out here tonight?" laughed the tree people. We picked the second tree we saw, ran back to the car, drove home in wet shoes.
Back home, I opened the boxes marked Christmas ornaments. We had a half-dozen stored in the basement, three of which I'd never seen before. It seemed surprising that there were actually boxes I'd never seen, dating from Mark and Wally's years in Vermont. For fifteen years they'd been in an inaccessible part of the Provincetown attic. For four more years they'd been in an inaccessible part of a storage unit in North Truro, which we'd emptied this summer.
I pulled open the boxes. A stuffed bear, a windup cat and butterfly, a mechanical dog, a monkey on a swing... Wally's Christmas vision intact after twenty years. A sliding down into multiple levels of time: my partner's late partner's love of ritual, collecting; the idiosyncratic ornaments of the 60s, 50s, 40s. The grit came off on my fingers. Once again the dead were on my mind.
I don't know what possessed me to put the cellphone shots below on Facebook. Some spasm of joy, unguardedness? Some refusal to be done in? After fifteen minutes, though, the shots looked increasingly vulnerable up there: a boy standing on a stage without his clothes. They didn't look like refusal. Who could even look at Christmas imagery right now without thinking war, joblessness, commercialism, disappointment--any of it? And I hadn't given anybody any written context. The quickness of Facebook suddenly struck me as hopeless. What I really wanted was for the dead to come back. And I took the pictures down.