Taking Down the Tree

Paul Dorsey
3 min readJan 10, 2021

Christmas season doesn’t end at our house until the tree comes down. It’s still sopping water from the base, but its branches sag now that the music has faded away. The Charlie Brown train stopped running weeks ago. Needles litter the track.

Things changed this year.

We bought a smaller tree that could only fit half the normal lot of ornaments. The skirt that soaked up excess water gave way to a shiny metal collar that hid the new base. A crack in the old one created a flood last year. And somebody invented a Horton Who contraption to water the tree without bending over.

Other things stay the same.

As I undress the tree, I am careful with the glass globe that protects the Villanova Basketball Stadium. I didn’t remember this one from when I attended there back in the 80s. Oh yeah, Daughter #1 picked it up before Christmas of her freshman year.

The next ornament, a survivor, is a soft mini-stocking. I cut ”1975” from green felt in third grade to put on the snowy part. Glue still holds pictures of three children. My sisters wear matching red bows while I don the standard striped shirt. Three more siblings came later. Now, their children are older than we were when we became frozen in time on the tree for the past 45 years.

Here’s a picture of Daughter #1 sealed within a plastic tree with green crayola accents. She’s twenty now.

A heavy green jeep represents the first new car we bought together 25 years ago, before we had kids. Next to it is a key-fob ornament. Daughter #2 turned sixteen this summer and is driving now. How did that happen? Just yesterday, she painted the light bulb in third grade to make a snowman face. I’m careful to wrap that one in the same bubble wrap from last year.

A boat sets me adrift to a vacation in Sanibel. It took a cruise to Jamaica in 2016 to find the painted sand dollar. And we found Santa climbing a lighthouse in Charleston one year.

Each birth is documented. The first one, angelic. The second, less formal. Both say “Daughter’s First Christmas.

In 2012, somebody brought us an ornament with our names above five Teddy bears. We added a fifth when Mimi moved in.

Our dog Nova is well represented with a big red bone. We have it all covered.

The tree is mostly empty now, except for the lights. Here’s one I missed under a low branch. It’s a house with a smiling face and two arms offering a hug from when it was just the two of us. It seems fitting to be alone.

Wait, there’s one more. “In memory of Jetta — 2009.” Dog #1. She came before the house and the wedding and the kids. My eyes swell.

I remember the beauty of my grandmother’s tree, the formality. Her glass ornaments matched the silver teardrops and gold tinsel. It looked the same every year. Perfect.

Ours isn’t so formal. It tells a story. A story that gets better with age.

The dog is gone now. And so is that Jeep Cherokee that we swore we’d never sell. We moved from the house that hugged us seventeen years ago, but it’s where we built this family.

Someday, the girls will be fifty like me. They’ll have their own families and will argue whether the tree should be fat or skinny. Maybe that little red stocking will hang on the tree. I can only hope they build a history that takes them back to their happy place when they take the tree down and wrap up their memories for another year.

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Paul Dorsey

When not working as a Financial Advisor, Paul writes about everyday people. His first book, Forbidden Inheritance was published in 2020.