Tinsel. Shiny, foil-like strands that looked like silver hair or metallic spaghetti. Grams wanted us to put more of it on the Christmas tree. I said, “I think that’s enough,” and she just kept shouting “More! More tinsel!”
Grams was on her third glass of vodka. She always got like this around the holidays. She was drunk dying Easter eggs. Plastered with a hand up the Thanksgiving turkey.
“Here, like this,” she said, dumping tinsel on a branch. We stepped back to survey her work, shielding our eyes from the reflection.
“I don’t know,” said Court. But her and I were only seven and ten and Grams wouldn’t listen.
“It needs something else!” Grams yelled, which was the opposite of what I was thinking. We had already done the lights, the garland, the ornaments, and of course, the tinsel. Grams crossed the room and hoisted up the television. She stuck it, square and bulging, smack in the center of the tree. Court’s mouth dropped open; I covered my eyes.
“Still needs more,” Grams said, stumbling to the paintings on the wall. She lifted each one off its nail and teetered over to the tree. She shoved one picture towards the tree’s thick center pole. The painting of a bowl of fruit balanced precariously near the treetop.
“You need professional help, Grams,” Court said.
“Damn right I do. Grab something.”
We took the porcelain figures out of the curio and chucked them at the tree–each one sticking, embedded in the fake pine. Grams ripped the cabinets off the kitchen walls and stuck them to the tree like velcro. The microwave, sconces, cats, string, bottles of hair dye, salmon, clocks, clothes–it all went on. We laughed so hard, I couldn’t catch my breath; Grams twirled Court around and around until she was dizzy and grabbed the tree for support. It shook with joy; the ornaments tinkled with her touch.
We yanked spices from the cabinets, pieces of pipe, Grams’s costume jewelry, Grandpa’s Ring Dings. We wrapped the tree in floral bed sheets, pulled up the carpet; we couldn’t be stopped.
By the fourth glass of vodka, we were seated on the floor beneath a pile of Grams’s most prized possessions. We heaved, out of breath, panting like dogs.
Grams plucked one more strand of tinsel from the box that lay next to us.
“The last one,” she said, “You two do the honors.”
We sat up with couch pillows cascading around us. We put it on the last empty branch, laid it on gingerly like it was the end of something. Then we all lay under the tree, pinned there and facing upwards to look at the lights tucked in the artificial fronds. Their fuzzy glow rained down halos on us. We lay there a while. Grams lit a cigarette and the smoke curled up next to me and Court, up to the star of the tree. The radio above us belted out, “O Holy Night, O night divine.”