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Should she continue the tradition?
Since Christmas was so near, the house was all fresh and clean with new paint, and Shelly needed a distraction, she decided to get out all the decorations and put up the tree. She had debated whether or not to decorate. It seemed like a lot of work for one person. It also didn’t exactly seem like an appropriate time to be celebrating. There would be no gifts to buy and no gifts to be placed under the tree. However, Shelly needed something constructive to do.
She lugged the totes down from the attic. It took her a while, but she finally got the house decorated. Opening the totes that held all the decorations, she carefully put everything in its spot. It was sort of silly how every year each item had a specific place to be. One year when she was in high school she had tried putting things in different places, but it didn’t feel right. Her dad had said the house looked nice so she hadn’t thought he cared. The next day Shelly put all the decorations in their rightful locations. When her father got home from work that day he had looked around with a smile and said, “Now it feels like Christmas.”
Obviously, he had felt the weirdness of it all too, which made Shelly feel better.
When she was done she smiled at the thought of the upcoming holiday. Then she started crying as she realized it would be the first Christmas without her dad. Christmas had always been her favorite holiday and this was really the first sparkle of cheer she’d felt since getting the phone call about her dad. She wanted to keep that cheer as long as possible. It was time to get the tree. Swiping at the tears that threatened to come, she grabbed her coat and a saw, pulled on her boots, and found a pair of her father’s work gloves. Shelly grimaced, recalling the time she hadn’t used gloves to drag a tree back to the house with her dad. The weather had been unseasonably warm, too warm Shelly thought, to wear gloves. While the warm weather quickly went away, it took much longer for the sap on Shelly’s hands to completely disappear, no matter what kind of harsh soap she used.
After putting on the gloves, she picked up the saw. It was a little rusty, but it looked and felt sharp enough that Shelly imagined it would still work.
Shelly trudged through the woods for a while. It seemed to be harder than she remembered. Perhaps that was because of all the overgrowth.
It didn’t take her too long to find a tree she thought would look nice in the house.
“This one doesn’t look too big,” she said to herself.
Of course, those were her famous last words this time of year. She always grossly underestimated the amount of room they had in the house. Trees always looked much smaller outside than they did inside. One year her dad had to cut off about four feet to get the tree to stand up in the house. That tree had been so full, Shelly couldn’t count the number of times one of them almost knocked it over when walking by it. As soon as Christmas passed that year, the tree left the house.
Shelly crouched down underneath the branches to get as close to the ground as she could. Positioning the saw she got ready to cut the tree down. She was surprised at how long it took her to get a cut started. Her dad always made it look so easy. Maybe the saw was a little too rusty after all.
Finally, after what seemed like sawing for an hour, the tree fell over. Now all she had to do was drag it back to the house, which was also not an easy task.
The branches kept catching on vines that had grown wildly throughout the woods. About half way back to the house Shelly was completely frustrated and exhausted. That, coupled with the fact that her emotions were pretty raw already because of the memories, she sat down right where she was and cried.
She cried for the loss of her dad. She cried for the pain that was now in her arm from all the sawing. She cried that her Christmas tree was stuck in a patch of wild grape vines. She cried for the fact that she would never buy her father another Christmas present.
After she had been spent emotionally as well as physically, she took a deep breath.
“I can do this,” she said out loud. “I have to do this. I’m alone and there’s no one to help me. I don’t mind being alone. I don’t need anybody else.”
After untangling the vines from the branches of her tree Shelly was on her way back to the house with the Christmas tree in tow.
Finally, after a couple hours of lugging and tugging, Shelly had the tree in the stand and in its spot, although she thought it looked a little crooked she felt too tired to mess with it anymore. The placement of the tree was the one part of her Christmas decorating that was different. Instead of the tree being in the front room, it was now in the new room off the back of the house. It looked perfect here. If only her father could see.