My brother-in-law and his fiancé planted a stake in the ground and announced that because they had been away so much in the fall, they were staying put for Christmas. Any of us who wished to join them were welcome, and they would find us a place to stay. And there would be a Christmas meal at their home.
The instant I heard this information that wrapped around an invitation I knew we would all make our way out to Martha’s Vineyard for the holiday. A first ever event of this kind begged for the jettisoning of whatever traditions had been standard, offering up a new way of being together.
Our own family of four would be in New York state to celebrate my mom’s 90th birthday the weekend prior, and then attend our annual Noche Buena, the traditional Cuban Christmas Eve with my college roommate and her family and friends. They are now our friends after many years of sharing this evening, watching each other’s children grow (or be born) as all of us evolve through our challenges and promotions.
Christmas Day dawned snowy and cozy, and we lazily drank coffee, ate cinnamon bread baked by generous elves in town and opened gifts. The snow was just stopping as we piled into the truck before noon and rolled over the several inches as we headed south to the ferry.
Approaching my brother-in-law’s I saw the colorful twinkling of lights but it wasn’t until we walked in the door that I could appreciate the full impact of Bob’s creation.
There suspended from the beam that traversed the cathedral ceiling in the kitchen, hung the Christmas tree at a jaunty upward angle. The trunk was wrapped in red lights, the body and branches sported the traditional green, red, yellow and blue distributed all around its considerable bulk, and at the pointed top were bright white lights. This rocket ship of a tree, balanced over the large island in the kitchen was the biggest WELCOME I could ever have imagined. Impossible to do anything but smile when encountering this wonder, it set the tone for an upbeat evening that encouraged the laughter that Anne Lamott describes as carbonated holiness.
My brother in law, obviously a bold and creative spirit, is a builder with the know-how to set his vision in motion and I will forever embrace the goodwill that emanated from this lighted embrace.
Our daughters reminded us that once many years ago, he had suspended the tree upside down. I had some recollection of that house but what did spring forth was the bear ass that he taxidermied as an answer for what to do with the half his hunter friend discarded. The legs hung upside down (or paws side up) over the bed we were to sleep in, but I declared that I couldn’t sleep under it, so Bob plucked it off the wall, and set it down on the floor against the wall near the kitchen table, thus looking like the bear was walking through the wall.
I am grateful for my brother-in-law’s insistence on forging new possibilities, and not accepting the traditional as a given. Who knows what we will all decide for next year? We are happy to host or be guests. All I know is that this year’s tree will be tough to top. Our own home does not have the height to support this particular brand of creativity, but we can all find a way to extend the sprit of the holiday rocket tree as we gather to be together.