There are no ornaments on our Christmas tree, not because we've already removed them, but because they were never hung.
Making time to pull out boxes and unwrap ornaments was an off and on conversation, my husband finally deciding he was too tired after work, me deciding I was also tired and had other things to do, more important things like organizing cluttered closets and plucking tiny hairs from my chin.
Priorities, you know.
The tree is artificial with built-in lights that come on automatically at dusk. The lights match those coiled around the stair balustrade, bright points tucked in plastic green garland, and mine, a skinny strand as old as my marriage, is falling apart.
The only other decorations are two four-foot nutcrackers, three smaller ones, some fake poinsettias and other shiny, glittery, sparkly things that are easily lifted and set down; no assembly or unwrapping required, no ladders needed or repackaging.
I felt bad for the children, for my seven year old who asked three times when we could decorate the tree. We offset this desire by planting enthusiasm for all the gifts she would receive this year, those from Santa beneath our bare tree, and those from extended family in San Antonio where we travel each year. Eventually we won, or materialism did, and Christmas came and went without another word about the missing ornaments.
We forfeited the usual ceremony of family and tradition, dismissed the memories not made. And I regret that.
Tomorrow the tree and nutcrackers will go back upstairs to the storage closet. We'll welcome 2013 in some underwhelming manner, probably before it's time since midnight just seems too late to stay up for anymore. There's not much fanfare associated with celebrating the new year when you have young children, when you choose to stay home because you're too tired to go out. The TV metro hoedowns are shallow, the celebrities with glitter eyeshadow and microphones, cheerful falsettos. But we watch them anyway, and won't bother staying up for morbid reasons, to see if Dick Clark's speech has improved, because he's checked out of the New Year scene now.
We will hang up new calendars, two in the kids' bedrooms, one of baby animals and another called Cats Doing Yoga. Ornaments for the passage of time.
I have secretly vowed to override my own or anyone else's excuses for not hanging Christmas ornaments next year. I used to step up and take over when everyone else's enthusiasm deflated, but I was deeply a-spirited this year. Cheerless. This is no excuse for robbing the children of tradition, of holiday process and cheer.
I'll just have to buy a taller ladder, to reach the peak of the artificial tree, top it with a bright plastic star.