I shut my eyes suddenly. The tree remains on the backside of my eyelids, glittering in multi-colored lights and dark shadows of ornaments. My feet are cold on the linoleum floor. I’m supposed to be in bed. Before mounting the stairs, I pause and look towards our tree in the center of the living room.
I might be six, I might be eight, I could even be as old as eleven or twelve. Now I’m twenty, an age unimaginable, and while I can’t remember how old I was then, I can still see the tree in crystal-clarity. “Mind pictures,” I called them, taking them during goodbyes and moments I knew that I’d want to remember with an insight particular to childhood. Out of all the snapshots I created in my mind, only this one remains with me today.
Christmas has long been regarded as a holiday of nostalgia. It’s a holiday for children, for stories and imagination. Losing the Christmas spirit long ago became the plot line of stories, movies, and TV episodes. They all end the same way, with an epiphany and a Christmas carol imbued with new meaning. Since we moved to California six years ago, I’ve viewed Christmas as just another day, distinguished from the rest by a pile of new stuff and an excessive amount of cookies. This became especially true after we stopped going to Montana for the holidays when I went to college. I was already coming back for winter break, so we stopped going home to spend Christmas with my grandparents. It was decided the trip was too complicated, too expensive, and too hazardous to drive through the mountain passes between the airport and my childhood home.
This year, I’m sick, possibly incurably so. My dad bought a ticket to Seattle without telling anybody until yesterday. Mom informed me that the two things I’d suggested as Christmas presents were out of stock and did I want anything else?
I want to be well. I want to go back to school. I want my grandpa to paint again. I want to huge lump of guilt I’ve been carrying since August to go away. I want to headaches to stop. I want my brother to stop growing up so fast, my mom to stop stressing, and my dad to stop getting gray hair. I want snow. I want my boyfriend. I want to take back to last six months of my life and pronounce them a do-over. I want to go home.