I love it a million times more than I did before it dropped from the tree. My vintage Humpty Dumpty ornament, with its sparkly blue-and-glitter nostalgia, shattered into a sorry sprawl of glass shards to signal the sure end of an already tearful Christmas holiday. For a short while, I saw myself in what used to be something whole, and not because of the mirror reflection. It had been a difficult few days. It has been a difficult year. We are all a little bit broken.
I cannot say that I know exactly how anybody feels. I can say, though, that there has been a sense of emptiness, a sense of confusion tied as a ribbon around the seemingly happy Christmas packages as I work to make sense of and manage what lies before me. I don’t understand fully or know for sure, but I wonder if, at a truly primal level, my profound sadness at the end of an era heralds a vaguely similar sense of what could have been, what should have been for those mothers and fathers who were just not quite able to climb the wall to the other side. Though desperately they tried, there stood a barrier that was just too much to bear. Their time, as they had known it, ran out.
Last year when we went to visit Santa, the little boys refused to even enter the little cottage. I took their picture as they huddled sheepishly together at the bottom of the steps to the entry, terrified to be in the very vicinity of the jolly fellow. We did not attempt a visit this season.
We loved the tree. Ethan chose it on his first lap around the lot on Sycamore Road, and all agreed fervently that this was “the one.” The unanimous consensus was, in itself, a Christmas miracle. The tree was smallish, with a top branch so wonderfully straight to provide the perfect perch for the old silver star. The “Christmas tree” smell was more powerful than any other in my memory. The little boys took turns caring for the tree, filling its reservoir with fresh water.
By Christmas night, it was clear that the tree’s enchantment was nearing its earthly end. As the needles had fallen and the branches were now sparse, I could see the remnants of a dried leaf curled near the trunk. Perhaps it had fallen from a strong Oak tree, or maybe it blew from a raked pile during one of the blustery late fall winds, but it stood through Christmas like a tiny spy on the once glistening spruce that, today, stands its last battle. Still it held fast, it didn’t fall, through the angst, through the tears, through the anxiety, through the uncertainty. It reveled in the moments of joy and clung to the proud backdrop to the family history which is held in the glass balls, woolen angels, and charismatic elves, all made radiant and royal amid the twinkling, sparkling iridescence of the Christmas lights.
Sometimes, I am that leaf, watching as an outsider as things unfold, things that are surely out of my control. I can’t fix it or make it whole, ever again. I can only do my best to pick up the pieces. I’m not sure when or exactly where the Humpty Dumpty ornament came from; there are details of its history that we will never know. We were not its first home, though we were its last. I will love it still, through its brokenness, and I will know and remember its beauty and how delighted I was to place it high on the tree each year. We will open our doors to them, watch them, care for them, listen to them, pick them up, and, when the time comes, do our best to let them go with armfuls of hope and memories, and the knowledge of what it feels like to be cherished, so that they, too, may shine with a light so bright, so meaningful, and so like none other.