The tree will finally come into its own . . .
We have a very special guest for Christmas this year, and he could not have timed his arrival better, writes CLAIRE KILROY
I’ve been contemplating this year’s Christmas tree since the clocks went back in October. The tree is an antidote to the short winter evenings, a warm glow on a cold night. My fixation with Christmas trees and their baubles began around the time I had to quit my first apartment. It was the heady days of the Celtic bubble and my rent was doubled with two weeks’ notice. I moved back to my parents’ house and stuffed my furniture into their shed.
The genius of a Christmas bauble for someone with no space of their own is that it is small and thus easy to stow. I gathered baubles like a squirrel gathering acorns, amassing them for a future date when I would need them. I wrapped them in tissue paper and stored them in wicker chests. Literary festivals took my baubling to an international level. Any time I gave a reading abroad, I tried to find something to bring home for the tree. Pandas from China, amber from the Baltic, exotic flowers from India. My Christmas tree is a map of those early years, my feathering of an absent nest.
This Christmas is a red-letter Christmas for my husband and me. We are newly-weds. It is the first year that we will not spend in our respective family homes, but instead with a family of our own, for Alan and I have a very, very, very special guest joining us this year. His name is Lawrence and he was born a strapping nine-pounder on December 1st at the National Maternity Hospital. Because of him, the Christmas tree will now finally come into its own.
One night when I was still carrying Lawrence, and he was noodling away inside me, I wondered what sort of dreams this unseen child had. That’s when it occurred to me that he had no images in his head. He possessed no store of pictures with which to dream. He had a library of sounds – our voices, my heartbeat, the drone of the car – but nothing visual. Furthermore, in the early days, we would be the custodians of his image bank. We would curate what he saw.
I immediately thought of the tree, and we picked one on the stormy journey home from the hospital. For five weeks or so – a lifetime in Lawrence’s world – the Christmas tree with its fairy lights and gleaming baubles, his mother’s attempt at a home and hearth, will twinkle in the corner of his first home as it gets dark outside. He could not have timed his arrival into this world better. I held him up to it the night after we decorated it. He gazed at it in wonderment and his face lit by fairy lights is a memory I will treasure for life.