Faux Fir, Birch, Time

My little piece of Manhattan (way downtown) has been transforming itself.  Faux fir, twinkly lights, and all manner of gilded Christmas ornamentation, have infiltrated almost every public space.

The decorations are intended to inspire Christmas cheer.    Instead, they usually make me feel guilty, irritated.    (So much to do, and now Christmas!)   I sometimes think I’d just rather have big neon signs blinking,  “Shop Shop Buy Buy”.

What especially bothers me are the white sprays of some kind of wooden (or plastic) branches that seem intended to represent birch.

I’m not sure what birch has to do with Christmas.  (In fact, the branches may actually represent some variation of ice storm rather than birch.)

Their starkness, leaflessness, has a morbid quality.    Even punitive–I think of  the switches given to bad children by some European version of Santa Claus—the Italian witch La Befana?

The sprays of birch” may especially bring me down because the main place I see them is the South Bridge, an overpass over the West Side Highway, which is one of the prime viewing spots for Ground Zero.  The stark white branches punctuate each window except for the one with the best bee-line view of the old World Trade Center site.    (That last bunch of birches has been tactfully moved inward to an interior wall.)

The fire station directly across from Ground Zero is also festooned with a thick ornamented bunting.    Tourists peer in its garage.  The 9/11 Tribute Center next store sells teddy bears.

I know all of this is part of the natural progress of time—the transition of these few acres from unintended graveyard to must-see tourist sight;  I’m sure it’s all good on some level, as well as inevitable.

So why does it bother me?

Simple snobbery?  A bit.  Some of the decorations seem kind of plasticky.  Though actually, they are pretty nice for plasticky.  Also re-usable.   I can testify to this re-usability because they are exactly the same the year as the year before, and too, the year before that.

This, I realize, is what truly bothers me. The “before” element, the “last year” piece.  It seems too soon for Christmas decorations to be up again;  too quick for “before” to have become “again”.

(I’m not referring here to the fact that it’s too early to celebrate Christmas.   That prematurity was also the same last year.)

No, what bothers me is that it’s too soon to be this year.  Where did the last one go?   I can come up with specific moments, but certainly not 525600.

The idyllic version of time passing shows  leaves turning red, snow falling, that electric lime green of spring, black-eyed susans reaching out to a brilliant summer sky.

But here we are in downtown New York City.  Faux fir sprouts, dead white “birch” splays, ornaments blossom.

All this time I thought those decorations were goading me to shop, but what they were really telling me was to pay attention.  Right here, right now.

In the midst of that realization, I hurry on to work, late again.

Explore posts in the same categories: New York City, Stress, Uncategorized

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