Christmas Tree Reflections

I.   Childhood (1950s)

The arrival of the tree

was almost as exciting

as Christmas Day itself.


The long wait

trips to the front door

interspersed with hopeful gazes

at the prepared bucket

on shiny linoleum.


The agonising wait

broken by the flurry

of heavy footsteps

and the thrusting

of a trunk into dirt.


A pungent prickly pine

that made me sneeze

stolen from the river bank

had found a new home

for the last days

of its life.


We watched

as older sisters

dressed it in decorations

we’d made

from silver foil bottle-tops

and cardboard ~

and those exquisite paper lanterns

my mother found on sale years earlier.


Christmas wrapping

covered the bucket

twisted red and green streamers


from lightshade to walls.


The tree

and the wood-panelled room

smiled with colour.


I smiled too:

it was just two days

until Santa’s visit

when we would leave

Christmas cake and drink

to send him on his way.


We’d wake

and ‘look, but not touch’

until Mass and breakfast were over

then presents would be handed

one by one and we’d watch

each treasure unwrapped.


Home-made second-hand

sometimes bargain-purchased


left in Santa’s name

filled our home with joy.


II.   Marriage (1970s)

In the fourth year of my marriage

when our second-born was not yet two


silver leaves on spiked branches

reached out in cold glare

I perched the ‘tree’

on metal tripod ~

soon replaced

by a bucket of dirt

for stability

and in an attempt

to hold on to childhood. 


I added balls and bells

and colourful tinsel

overseen by a gold angel

with glittering skirt

flowing almost to the floor

then sprinkled flashing lights

for effect

and in an attempt

to let go of my childhood.


Grand and sparkling

loaded with presents

for twelve years to come

this Christmas tree echoed

an artificial life:


A façade of all that is good

on the outside

empty     devoid of warmth

and crying out for recognition

on the inside.


III.  New Beginnings (1990s)

The cypress pine

in an earth-filled pot

grows taller

each year.


When too big

to retrieve from its verandah home

for the Festive Season

I’ll find a niche

in the garden

return it to nature.


The purchase of a new

potted evergreen

for future Christmases

will complete the cycle


a sound philosophy



at age six     the tree

is wilting     gasping

from days left without water

and being knocked sideways

by gusty winds

to lie flat on cement


a reflection of myself

tired and reeling

from traumatic events

piled      one on another

and another…


sapping energy

despite steady periods

in between.


It’s time

to cut the dead wood

plant the roots

in nourishing soil


feed and water tendrils

spreading in earth.


It’s time

to expel toxins

allow expansion

and growth


nurture myself     and

take control of my life


to pot

a new cypress     and

tend it with care.


c. Kathryn Coughran ~ 1994


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