It all started with the 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, and even though I kept saying, “I think that’s enough,” she just kept shouting “More! More tinsel!” Court and I were only seven and ten years old, so what could we do?
Grams was on her third glass of vodka and she always got like this around the holidays. She was drunk during Easter egg dying, plastered at Thanksgiving, and now it was the tinsel. She grabbed it in clumps.
“Here, like this,” she said, dumping it on a branch. We stepped back to survey her work, shielding our eyes from the reflection.
“I don’t know,” said Court.
“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. But that’s when it happened. 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 top.
Court and I looked at each other, and that’s when we decided–Grams needed help. We grabbed 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, like velcro, to the tree. 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. By the fourth glass of vodka, we were seated on the carpet, out of breath, panting like dogs.
Grams took another sip and plucked one more strand of tinsel from the box.
“The last one,” she said, “You two do the honors.”
We put it on the last empty branch, laid it on gingerly like it was the end of something. Then we all crawled under the tree facing upwards to look at the lights tucked in the fronds. Their fuzzy glow rained down halos on us. Grams snored softly next to me and Court as the radio belted out, “O Holy Night, O night divine.”