This year I have my own tree for the very first time. In the past, I’ve spent Christmas under other people’s trees — my parents’ or my cousin Elaine’s, or I’ve been abroad on my own somewhere and improvised. I feel a bit ambivalent about having bought a fake tree, but there it is. I was going to try and find a cedar tree that we could plant in the garden afterwards, but time was running short — Baki had a cookie decorating party today, and I thought we ought to have a tree up for it. (And now that the party is over, I have this wonderful, light and liberated feeling. I feel exhilarated by parties in the same way that I am by running. That is to say, I rejoice when the deed is done.)
I stayed up late one night last week to unpack Fake Tree and straighten out all the branches. Then I wound a string of lights around the center of the tree, since that’s what my cousin Bill always says to do (I might not seem to be paying attention, but I am). Now, I might not have had a tree, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have any decorations. My Auntie Ga used to send me an ornament for Christmas every year. This is the first one I ever got from her:
Then, after she died my cousin Elaine sort of picked up where she left off, and this is one from her:
Then there are a few other oldies, like my old Tusker earring, made out of a bottlecap from Kenya’s fine lager:
And an opulent, gold leafed egg that I am always amazed has made it through another year:
And an ornament that is especially precious this year for having a message in Uncle Herbie’s precise hand:
At the end of the night, the tree had all of my old ornaments on it and I thought it looked pretty good:
But this is also the year that I was reunited with all of the ornaments that I grew up with, and the following day while Baki was at school, my mother and I put them up, including Auntie Ga’s snowflakes:
And our Roman angel, which my mother just told me she got at the Vatican, so I guess it deserves its lofty perch.
And we added a new ornament this year, as well; Baki chose this one in Abu Dhabi:
So that in the end, the tree looked like this (and seemed to me quite unashamed of not being real):
I hope you will forgive me if I am stating the obvious, but this is the first time I have done this. And it seemed somehow significant that these little symbols of my past had been united for the first time. I was struck by how some ornaments’ significance has changed with the death of loved ones, and was happy to be adding a new memory to the collection. It makes me wonder how the boys will react to these ornaments in years to come, and if they might one day be decorating trees of their own.
At the moment, it seems the furthest thing from their minds.