47.2 - Spring 2018

Page 120

* Our last Christmas in our old town, we needed new lights for the tree. At Target, Paul and I let the kids pick them out, and they, being children, chose the brashly-brightest, blinkingly garish, colored LED strands. I had my reservations. I may even have expressed them. But clearly I was overruled. We decorated the tree and stood back to take it in. They were delighted. I was despondent. For most of my own growing up, we had subtle white lights on our live Christmas trees. But when I was very young, I remember color on an artificial tree in our living room with the white carpeting and the gold and green striped couch. I remember sitting in my mother’s huge wooden rocking chair with my knees tucked up under my chin, my feet bare against the cool, smooth seat. I think I remember Christmas music, but it’s possible I’m filling that into my memory because it makes for a more picturesque scene. What I’m sure about though is that I was crying. I am sure that I was looking at that tree and feeling an inexpressible sadness that had, as far as I could tell, nothing at all to do with the lights on the tree or the music or the holiday in any way. I spoke to myself in my head: “Sheila, why are you sad? There’s nothing sad about Christmas.” It seemed ridiculous. I was maybe six or seven years old and when I think back on this now, I know with certainty that this memory marks the first recognizable moment of depression in my life. There have been many more moments since then, surrounded and informed by many different contexts, but the shape and timbre of the thing—the cold empty inside me—has never changed. 112

PHOEBE


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