Monday, December 14, 2009

Day 94: Of Rituals And Traditions

Much of my art includes the idea of rituals and traditions. I don't know if the love of them stems from their capacity for transformation, or the way that they become the mythologies of your life. Yesterday was the performance of a 5th annual tradition, the finding, cutting down, and decorationg of the Carmody's tree. My friend Brenna is a Rhode Island native, and for five years now she has had myself and Annie and Angela and assorted friends over to contribute to her family's christmas tradition.

For now I only have one picture of this years event stolen from friend Maggie's math blog

My recounting of the tradition is as follows:

It is cold. We're all wearing our coats and scarves crunching through needles and old snow. This tree is too sparse on one side, the other too lean, the other too crooked. We search and search. When we find a seemingly befitting one, we present it for Brenna's examination. She is an expert. Finally one meets satisfaction. We have found the perfect tree, full and fat and tall and glorious.

We gleefully take a saw to it, taking turns cutting through its bark, our faces buried in it's sweet smelling spines. A creak, a sound of weakening, a swift kick and the tree tumbles. We heft it with our awkward grips and carry it to be wrapped and priced. It is an awkward thing, strapping a christmas tree to the roof of a car. Thankfully it is only a short trip from the tree farm to Brenna's parent's house. All of us crammed in, the dog sits on Brenna's lap.

Once we get the tree inside, I proceed to eat all the clementines in sight to the surprise, and perhaps amazement, of the Carmody parents. Annie is selecting Christmas music to play.

We put the tree in its stand and proceed to straighten it, people on all sides commenting . Then we tether the tree. This was a hard learned lesson as we watched it crashing down in slow motion one year, ornaments scattered, and thankfully very few broken.

We decorate. There is an art to the draping of lights. It is a sacred art. Next come the boxes and boxes of ornaments. Each ornament is wrapped in tissue paper. Each ornament is loved. We have recited its history, its origin, its significance.

As the last few ornaments go on, we must hunt for a place to put them. The tree is full and glorious. Perhaps a few branches bend with the weight of the fruit we have given it. Still, we regret that there are no more ornaments. Brenna's mom instead provides us with cookies, they are plain and white and sweet.

She lays out in neat rows on the dinner table bowls of colored frosting, sprinkles, gumdrops, colored sugar. Everything in neat rows, everything ready. We smother the cookies until they drip frosting, we stack them with sprinkles and gumdrops until they become unwieldily towers of sugar. We show each one to her parents. "yes very beautiful Annie!" "Geddes that cookie is collapsing!". Angela's are always the most edible. The cookies are laid out on plates. Now we don't want to eat them. Well maybe a little.

The table is cleared. The bowls of frosting and sugar removed, and replaced with bowls of delicious steaming good smelling food. All elegant and mouthwatering. There are always mashed potatoes. We eat and laugh and smile. By the time we are done, and we must return home, we must roll out of our chairs and down the hall, balancing our plates of cookies.

With smiles and hugs and warmth we load into Brenna's car and return to the city.

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely retelling of traditions shared. Thank you for your story.