by Barbara Gatta
For the most part, we all were in denial about our 12-foot tree a few Christmases ago.
“The tree’s leaning left,” someone observed distractedly, hardly looking up from his bowl of cereal flakes.
“I thought so too,” I yawned with little interest. “It’s straight from the front, though. I just think it’s a crooked tree.” Then I went back to more important things, my coffee and paper.
Next meal, someone again observed, with slothful indifference, “The tree is tipping more than before.”
Some turned to look. A few voiced opinion.
“No, it’s the same. It’s leaning, though.”
“It’s OK. It was always leaning.”
“The wall is crooked. The tree’s fine.”
In retrospect, I think we did far too much intellectualizing and not enough real research. Someone should have stepped up and maybe given the tree a shake, or kicked at the base.
The exact moment the tree gave way, my son Dominic happened to be staring up at it from a close distance.
He later reported that he didn’t think the tree was falling. He thought he was having a near-death experience, because he became aware that the angel at the top seemed to be getting closer and closer in veeeeery slooooow mooootionnnnn. He became riveted in fear, this being his final moment on Earth.
“I thought I was dying,” he testified shortly after, when all was said and done, sweat beads on his brow, nursing the sore spot on the back of his head, looking like a boy who had to now figure out what to do with his new lease on life.
The angel started getting so close, he lost all sense of balance and slammed down backwards onto the floor. Good thing, too, because his prostrate body saved many of the ornaments, since the tree landed square on his chest. When we got to him, he was wide-eyed and face-to-face with the angel who was still on the tree but lay smack between his eyes.
Our one regret was that we didn’t get a picture of him when we finally lifted the tree up. He was covered in and surrounded by pine needles, ornaments, lights, ribbons and tinsel in the perfect shape of a Christmas tree. Dominic’s pine-needled torso was the single contour in the middle of the otherwise two-dimensional evergreen image.
Despite a bump, a few scratches and some stubborn sap on his adolescent upper lip, Dominic expressed enormous relief about the outcome of the whole incident. “At least it wasn’t what I thought it was…” and then he would make sharp slicing motions at his neck.
Next year, I think we’ll attach the tree where the wall meets the ceiling with fishing line, like my father used to do. One thing I am sure of, though, Dominic will not do much close-up staring at the Christmas tree from here on in, and will most certainly not engage in any eye-to-eye contact with the angel perched on top.[hr] Barbara Gatta is a former member of Queen of All Saints parish, Fort Greene.