I’m sitting on the upstairs staircase looking out the window and I’m crying. I’m watching leaves blow past, tumbling, and I can see them, picture them in every moment they’ve ever blown across that patch of land. I’m thinking about the decades of years, the piles of blowing leaves. I’m listening to my dad and my uncle, who are downstairs talking about Christmases of the 1960s. They’re talking about my grandparents, and the piles of presents under the beautiful pine trees. I’m watching the leaves blow and listening.
“Wasn’t that something? Creeping downstairs, hoping that Santa’d come, wondering if we’d been good enough for presents that year? And there would be presents every year, Mom would make sure of that. Do you remember the piles of presents, stacked up around the tree? Man!”
You sit down on the stairs because you feel like you have to and you watch the leaves blow out the window even though you’ve never done that before and you cry and you don’t know why. It’s everything. The past and the present and the repetition and the memories. The old black and white television shows that your dad watches and he says, “When I was young, T.V. was good and music was music!” And he pats you on the shoulder and it makes you feel sad.
And your great-aunt, your grandpa’s sister, she shows you the wedding photo of your great-grandfather, at the funeral of her sister. You are surrounded by family and you talk about death and memories and everyone cries together and she hugs you tighter than she ever has. You listen to distant relatives all talk about this person that they’ve loved all their lives. And they are a stranger to you, all of them. You listen like it’s another story from some other place, some other family.
All of this is swirling like old leaves in your head. The same problems repeating in your life like another Christmas on the calendar. You wonder what it would be like if your grandma was alive, if you had known her. You wonder if you would be brave, if she would’ve helped you to be. You wonder what all of your past Christmases would’ve been like, if you would know the names of those second cousins, if you would still be sitting, crying on the staircase.
The leaves keep blowing and it doesn’t matter. People have died, leaves have crumbled and grown and fallen again and again. Children have awoken on Christmas morning with the feeling of magic, have grown up and become Santa Claus, have felt scared and weak, have cried at funerals and lost loved ones or once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Grand memories have faded from old minds like dying once-fresh-cut pine trees. People have watched squirrels climb trees and leaves blow across their lawns. Year after year.