Her calendar says ‘Christmas tree up’
My daughter walked into the room and with three words proclaimed the start of the Christmas season at our house.
“Christmas tree up,” she said, giving me a look that let me know she meant for me to take her seriously.
Autism may limit her ability to carry on a conversation, but it does not stop her from letting me know that according to her schedule, it is time for the decorations to appear.
“Christmas tree up,” she said a little more firmly.
“Yes,” I told her. “I’m going to put the Christmas tree up.”
There is a calendar in her head and things are supposed to happen according to that calendar. When they don’t, it throws her world into a tailspin. She does her best to handle it, but I can tell it causes her great anxiety. Christmas decorations going up at a certain time are on that calendar.
So, I started taking down the fall stuff and dragging out the holly jolly decorations. Now understand, I have all this stored in one closet, one kind of medium-sized closet. That means a major juggling act takes place every time I change out decorations.
Every year I think I’ve put them up in such a way to make pulling them out easier. And every year, I realize I didn’t.
Since I did a major rearranging when I stored things after last Christmas, it took some figuring out before I could start. I finally decided the best way to proceed was put all the fall things in a stack in the corner of the living room. Then pull out the Christmas things and put the fall stuff in the space left by the Christmas things.
Yes, I realize that this is going to be a problem when it is time to take down the Christmas things, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. (Something I say to myself every year). For now, the mission was “Christmas tree up.”
Getting the tree up is something I’ve made a bit easier by not un-decorating it. I know this is lazy person decorating, but it works for me.
I just push the tree (it’s not a big one) fully decorated into the closet and close the door. Then when it is time to put it up, I pull it out, fluff up places where it got squashed in the closet, plug in the lights and boom — it’s Christmas.
So, with my daughter watching, I crawled along pulling the tree from the closet to the spot in front of the window where it will shine until Christmas. It was slow going and I lost a few ornaments along the way, but it arrived at its destination mostly decorated.
I placed the angel on the top, arranged some of the ornaments that were hanging sideways and flipped on the lights. Instantly, the house had the glow of the holidays.
I stood back looking and smiling.
“Christmas tree is up,” I said to my daughter.
She smiled her approval.
Now it’s on to putting the finishing touches on Christmas at the Blackmon house. There is the garland for the mantle, the angels that sit on the buffet, the snowman collection for the center of the table. Every piece carries sweet memories of other Christmas seasons in this house.
Maybe that’s why my daughter wants the tree up on schedule. She, like me, only begins to feel the season with all its wonderful memories when the lights from the tree shine in the window.
It seems to me that this year, the whole world is longing to feel the season, to embrace the light and love that it embodies. We all “need a little Christmas right this very minute…”
At my house, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I plan to enjoy that little sparkling tree from now until exactly two days after Christmas when my daughter will announce, as she does every year, “Christmas tree down.”
Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.