The 14th of December is my sister’s birthday. It is Christmas Tree Day.
We’ll pull the old plastic thing out of the windshield box covered in a year of dust. No older. We keep it back of the boathouse, our name for the saddle shop where Daddy keeps his ski boat and Mother her junk. The building has plastered walls outside. Cracks and decay betray the chickenwire undercarriage that holds the plaster in place.
I tell myself that the shreds of an old movie poster are still there. A b-rate 1940’s flick. A Zorro-like hero, heroine in arms, her clothing tattered as the newsprint the poster hangs on.
How many times have I tried to write the boathouse? A dozen times or none. I can still with my eyes closed walk the obstacles alongside the boat. A fold-up mattress. Garage sale toys. Hefty bags split with cast-off clothing, Mother’s mostly.
The tree’s near the back in front of the brass bedstead. We’ve been told our whole lives: the bedstead’s antique, a valuable. It is itself a cast-off. Like the saddle shop, turned boathouse, a survivor of the Wild West. It belongs in a bedroom above a saloon, a saloon girl bathing a cowboy in a tin tub beside it. The brass is corroded with age. The bed’s metal cross-spring supports—too stiff to squeak like the good ole days.
The box the plastic tree sleeps in a windshield box covered with one of Mother’s old electric blankets. Nothing as useful as a windshield box for storage. A Christmas tree must be sheltered, though to be certain it is plastic. What harm could a year exposed in a saddle shop turned boathouse do it?
Boxes and blankets don’t keep out the dust. Not much a spider can do either in these temperatures, at these altitudes. The tree has outlived its present container. Hopefully the gravel on Wyoming’s backroads has been doing its job, and an empty windshield box will be there for the taking. Won’t keep out the dust, but it’s the principle of the thing: artificial trees absorb each holiday they live through.
We’ll take a water-hose to its branches. In Daddy’s auto-body shop, an air-hose hooked to a compressor will blow it dry.
Plastic cannot age.
But it can breathe. It can trap. The brother-brother-sister singing of Carols. A Mother’s enraged longing for an East Texas home. The smell of cookies baked for the widows in the ward. A Daddy’s worries about the bills. The Christmas play the children stage.
A plastic tree can weather all that, but not the year between. Cardboard and wired fleece must cushion it. Today we’ll unwrap it to witness again.