I've finally done it. I've put up a Christmas tree. Kind of. But after four Christmases without one at all, a 'kind of' Christmas tree is good enough for me.
Mind you, I don't think that Gerry, my late husband, would be very impressed. "You call that a Christmas tree?" he'd be saying somewhat dismissively of my four-foot, brown-barked-and-sprinkled-with-snow effort that now sits, rather resplendent, if I may say so myself, on a low table near the front window.
There it is, with a profusion of gold, cream and glass baubles, all chosen carefully after dragging down 'the Christmas bag' from its perch high in the hall cupboard, and rooting through it for the best decorations.
There's nothing that speaks of Christmas quite like a tree, twinkling with lights and symbolising the arrival of the festive season. When I was growing up we always had one every year. The same one. The tall, perfectly shaped green tree that was liberated from its box in the attic by my father every December, its branches then tweaked into shape before we piled on the baubles, and, also, for some reason that I never really understood, a multitude of colourful paper lanterns. It was those lanterns that were always the signature decoration - orange and yellow and red and purple, producing an instant rainbow of colour against the backdrop of green.
I never thought about a 'real' tree back then. Our artificial one was the tree that, year in, year out, defined Christmas in my childhood home.
Over the years, though, I came to understand the appeal of the real thing and so many of my adult Christmas memories are now centred around the choosing and the carrying home of the tree. Literally, carrying it home.
And there are memories too of my husband's various botched attempts at giving the tree a 'base' - like the makeshift bucket one year, filled with strategically positioned pieces of coal, with the tree itself perched precariously in the middle. Perched, that was, until one of our dogs brushed against it and over it went, spraying baubles and lights and pine needles all over the just-hoovered room. Just before our guests arrived for dinner. Happy times… Magical memories…
And then the magic ended. So when the winter of 2015 found me facing into Christmas as a widow, I simply couldn't countenance a Christmas tree. Couldn't confront that kind of joy in the midst of my sorrow.
And so it is that a Christmas-tree-shaped hole has remained in my life ever since.
Until a few days ago, when I spotted one of those twig-type trees in a local shop.
Maybe, just maybe, I'd have one of those, I thought. Would I? Wouldn't I?
Yes, I would!
So Sunday morning saw me driving to collect my tree, while Sunday afternoon saw me lifting down the old Christmas tree decorations from their dusty perch.
And as I spread them all out on the floor, picking up the tiny gold angel, then the glass reindeer, and then the glass ball with the gold tree inside, the memories of where we had bought them all - which country, which shop - came flooding back. And I found myself smiling at the memories.
So on to my little tree they went - the gold angel from Venice, the reindeer from Helsinki, the glass globe with the tree inside, bought years ago in a wintry Chicago. Followed by countless other precious-memory trinkets.
Would Gerry approve of my efforts? Yes, he would.
Would he think I could do better in the actual tree department? Definitely.
Well, next year, Gerry… Next year, it'll be a real one… Next year, I promise, I'll carry one home…