Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Taking Down the Tree

It’s time. It’s not a date on a calendar. It’s not the fact that the neighbors are doing it. It’s not that it has lost its glisten. It’s simply that the lovely lights and glimmering ornaments are still sparkling, but the sparkling has lost its meaning. Physically, nothing has changed. But the myth that surrounds it with significance, that awakens deep feeling and a sense of magic, has reached the end of its story and it’s time to move on.

I’m talking, of course, about taking down the Christmas tree. But with the next of my few remaining old-time colleagues at school contemplating retirement, the metaphor holds. She’s reached that point where some inward part moves and whispers “It’s time.” Though they will enter the conversation, it doesn’t have to do with age or money or an agreed-upon date. It’s just waking up and looking at the tree and feeling like it’s beauty has lived out its cycle. Time to close that door and open the next.

Someday it will happen for me. But not yet. After a brief moment that all teachers know well after a two-week vacation—“How do you do this again?”—I jumped back into my classes like entering an old familiar home and my children running into my arms, as they did all those years ago, shouting “Dad!” No matter how I calculate the years or wonder why I’m not tired of it yet, the Christmas tree of teaching kids at the school where I work warms my heart every bit as much—and indeed, more—than when I hung the first ornament 42 years ago. The lights and balls and decorations added over the years shine in some harmonious balance, each one holding a memory or a story that still touches my heart. I know the day will come where the gleam and the glitter will suddenly seem dull to my tired eyes. But not yet.

And so I take down one tree and leave the other. On to today’s classes!

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