The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present.
Instant Christmas tree.
I have always, going back as far of my 55 years as I recall, promised I would never have a fake tree. A Promise. A word of honor - an oath, pledge, guarantee, commitment. All those fancy words for 'You can count on me.'
Well, hell. Doesn't seem to bother anyone else around this household, so why should it bother me? I think it's kind of pretty. LED lights and all. So pretty, that the ornament boxes haven't even come out of the garage yet. And they might not. The only thing on there is a pretty crown I picked up years ago and the angel oldest son, Jacob, made 24 years ago.
Bob has an ornament, of course.
And there are 9 candy canes on there. I ate one.
I'm thinking that is all I can muster this year. With the passing of my mother this past fall, I've pacified myself by substitute teaching and making lists of things to do for Christmas. Gifts, bread making, wrapping, contributions, food for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Cards and letters written and sent. (Some long overdue thank yous.)
But for some reason getting the ornaments on the tree just seems too tedious. All those little things seem just too much for me. Even Ian came home from university and said, "We don't have to put all the ornaments on it, do we?"
No, we don't. Worked for me. I didn't even put up many of the other Christmas decorations. It does look festive around here, but in a milder manner.
I did, however, order a new dove for my tree. Rather ironic as I think about it. Bear with me as I tell this story.
My mother never left much in regard to instructions for her funeral. I don't think she much cared what happened to her body after death. My older brother, Jon, handled the arrangements at the funeral home while I - well, I don't quite remember what I was doing. Getting everyone gathered. Going through paperwork. Funding it. Anyway, I was grateful for his handling of that aspect. The only thing my mom ever told me was that she wanted white doves released at her graveside.
A few years ago she called to tell me she had talked to a woman for hours all about it. And when we discussed my dad's funeral arrangements last year, she told my brothers that she had told me she wanted that at hers. I promised to do it. Promised.
When my brother went off to the funeral home with a myriad of details to fulfill, I reminded him of the doves. I couldn't find the name of the lady my mom had spoken to but the funeral home had a guy. They said the dove guy would meet us at the graveyard.
As things go, you know, we did the nice service at the church (my mom would have complained that it was much too long), proceeded to the graveyard where my older brother and I were met by a guy under dressed for a funeral with a squat cage of birds. He handed us a well worn laminated sheet with three poems on it. "Which one you want me to read?" he said. My fast reading eyes decided then and there that I should have had a little more hands on for this part. I couldn't get past that they all sounded rather cheesy. I chose the least tawdry just as my brother pointed to the most trite.
Whatever, was my thought. But when the time came, the man said he didn't usually get requests for two birds - either one or an entire flock. I guess I was thinking my mom and dad when I requested two. For some reason, that revved the old guy up. He said the most lovely words repeating the unusual request and that this was a love story. Bill and Bernie flying off together. As my oldest and youngest brothers passed in front of my husband and me, birds in hands, I closed my eyes to what I saw - and decided to lift that sight from my mind and just imagine two lovely doves. My husband, however, does not have the creative imagination I do - nor the ability to always keep his mouth closed.
"They're GD pigeons, " he blurted out.
Thank you, Bob. Of course they weren't beautiful doves. Of course they were ratty old white carrier pigeons. Just pretend, Bob. I promised.
As I stood there gulping down the promise I'd made, I couldn't help recall how much my mother detested pigeons. When I was a little girl living on 18th Street, the mothers used to sit out on the front stoops while the kids played outside. Pretty soon I'd hear a few screams, look over to see Joey Costa's big brother's pigeon swooping at the women's heads as they sat on their steps. Joey's brother no where in sight.
The poor bird only wanted to sit on the light above their front doors and if left alone, probably would only have done that, but imaginations run and I think Hitchcock's The Birds was out at the time and women and their tall, teased hairdos and well, you know...
My mom would scream, "Joey Costa. Go get your GD brother and tell him to get his GD pigeon back in its cage right now or we'll have that GD bird killed."
I don't know whatever happened to Joey Costa, or his brother's bird, but for years after, my mom loved to watch cardinals, carolina wrens, finches and robins while they ate at her feeders. She called to those freebirds she discovered in the wild. But if one dared swoop at her, they were the devil incarnate.
So there's the irony in that. My mother was scared enough of pigeons to GD the poor little neighbor kid's older brother and his bird. Good thing she was dead when the pigeons were released to symbolize love at her funeral.
The birds were very eager and pretty when they flew off toward their home. Everyone oohed and ahhed. But I guess I didn't handle that promise very well. I did, however, put a really pretty fake dove on my fake tree that I also promised I would never have. Does that help?
Believe it or not, I have many other stories to tell from my mother's graveside ceremony - like fireworks wars, champagne toasts, and that tombstone that sort of got knocked askew. Perhaps another day.
Merry Christmas everybody. I promise.