I have been living on my own for more than ten years now and, for most of that time, I was in the Army. Holidays in the Army are interesting. Soldiers still get excited about holidays for the spouses or for the kids, but, for the single soldiers, it seems to be a constant reminder that you are alone unless you are lucky enough to be allowed to take leave to go home. The senior enlisted members do their best to include subordinates in the festivities — I never did spend a holiday alone unless I chose to — but there was still that feeling that the holidays were lacking.
With that underlying feeling of detachment, I never did get into the holidays. I made the obligatory phone calls to family members that were celebrating together in other parts of the world, I might have sent a card or present at times, and I accepted that the holidays were going to pass unnoticed for me yet again. With an outlook bordering on that “Bah, humbug” mentality, I never bothered buying into the holiday spirit. No decorations, no tree, no lights… nothing. Another benefit to not buying that stuff was not having to cart it around the world when I moved, but that was not really a deciding factor for me.
I cannot say what motivated me to do it, but I got the spark of the Christmas spirit a few days before Thanksgiving. Maybe it was the Christmas episode of Glee I had watched. Maybe it was the advertisement for Rudolph and Frosty on television. Then again, maybe it was something else entirely. Regardless of the trigger, I found myself with a passionate, nearly violent, need to go to Target and get a tree and some ornaments. After arriving at Target, I realized it wasn’t going to be as easy as walking in, filling a cart, and walking to the register. My need for organization and symmetry demanded that I put in true thought.
I ended up purchasing a nice silver and red combination of lights, glass balls, and bead tinsel along with a tree, tree skirt, and Christmas stockings to hang. After I finished decorating my tree and hanging the stockings, I felt a sense of “Okay, now what?” Here I was with my Christmas spirit, my decorations, and the feeling of accomplishment wondering at the strange feeling that I was waiting for something or that something was missing. It was then that I realized my tree was beautiful, but it lacked the smattering of ornaments that do not match anything else on the tree.
We had a tradition in my family when I was young and still living at home. Every year we would each choose a special ornament to put on the tree. It was entirely our choice and was pretty much a representation of what we thought was cool that year. It allowed us to spend a little more time each year, when it came time to set up the tree, to reminisce about the Christmases of the past. It was this memory that made me realize what my tree lacked: story. I had nothing to show, nothing to describe.
“Yeah, that’s my tree. Those silver balls? They came in a pack of 50!”
That is not much of a history to give a Christmas tree, is it? It is supposed to be a retelling of the gaudy ornament, the sentimental ornament, the cheap ornament, or the ornament that I had to save to buy. I am supposed to unwrap an ornament and sigh as I retell the story of how it came to be in the collection, or why I felt it was relevant to me at the time. My story is simple, however, and lacks substance.
I have to start somewhere though. I will say, however, that sharing the holidays with someone does make the experience better.