Well, it’s March. No better time to take down and put away my Christmas tree. Relax. It’s not what you’re thinking. A dried out pine or fir tree was not sprinkling its dead needles all over my living room rug.
Au contraire, my first ever Christmas tree of my adult life was a book Christmas tree. In 2017, I was tagged by at least two different people in the comment section of separate posts showcasing Christmas trees made of stacks of books—some more aesthetically pleasing than others. The concept was completely foreign to me, but I was intrigued. How had I never heard of this before or thought of it on my own? I own hundreds of books. I could easily erect one, but I opted not to do it.
Fun fact: I love Christmas music way more than I love Christmas the holiday. Songs to play on repeat: Last Christmas by Wham! and The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) by Alvin & the Chipmunks. Rounding out the list is the whole Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because that’s when my extended family—adults and we “kids”—get together to eat, drink and be merry. Christmas Eve we gather sans the older adults to eat, drink, and play the dice game LCR aka Left, Center, Right. I won the pot last year. I know what it feels like to have people make it rain on me.
Several years ago, on a whim, I bought a mini Christmas tree. It was just a few inches tall, planted in soil, and came with Styrofoam snowflakes as ornaments. I don’t know if I over- or under-watered it. Weeks after Christmas, it died. I was just as sad as when other plants I bring home don’t adapt and die. It’s happened more times than I’d care to admit. Meanwhile I have a plant that’s nearly twenty years old. Go figure.
Christmas 2018 I wanted a tree again, not that I was in any more of a Christmas spirit than I have been in the past. I wanted to get either the artificial Charlie Brown tree—a sad looking tree with just a few twigs and a single ornament, or build the book Christmas Tree. One was free, one was not. I went with free.
I must say it took me longer than expected to construct it. First, there was the pulling of the books from the shelves. I pulled the excess titles first, meaning the ones that were stacked on top of each other in front of the books that were properly shelved. Also, I tried to pull books that I had already read or didn’t plan on reading anytime soon (as in I’d already had them for years and it would be even more years before I read them).
Next issue: books vary in size and thickness. I found myself cramming slimmer books into slots in an effort to level out the rows. Also, because I thought I’d be posting on the ‘gram, I wanted the outward facing titles to be titles that I’d read, just in case I was asked about them by followers. I wasn’t.
I didn’t count, but I’m sure I used no less than 100 books to put up that tree. Even so, I ended up with only two naked bookshelves thanks to using the random stacks first. With the frustration of putting together the tree gone, I got ambitious. I wanted to add lights and a star.
I went to multiple dollar stores and convenience stores. I wanted white lights and a star topper that were battery-operated. No such luck. All the stars I found had to be plugged in. My tree was in a corner nowhere near the two outlets in my living room. I was not going to purchase an extension cord because: overboard. It turned out that in order to open the battery compartment for the lights, I needed a micro-Philips screwdriver. It wasn’t that serious and I was over it (again).
Even without the lights and topper I was mighty proud of my tree. Even when my beau came over and asked “why do you have a stack of books in the corner?” Eye roll. My cousin and his wife came over for an overnight stay. I was pleasantly surprised when she added it to her Instagram stories. I myself never posted it until January 6, with the caption “Time to take down the #BookChristmasTree. I’m of two minds: never do this ish again vs I know what to do next time. #PinterestFail? #ItWasHarderThanIThought #ReadBooks #UnreadBooks #WellReadBlackGirl #TooManyBooksTooLittleTime #TooManyBooksTooLittle Space
Cut to it’s March and the tree was still up. Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and even President’s Day came and went. The tree stood tall and gallant in the corner. More than once I approached even attempted to start re-shelving the books. Neither the motivation nor the patience existed. Too many damn books. I didn’t want t the project of having to figure out where they fit.
It took me hours to put the books away. In the process I rediscovered books that I forgot I had; in one case, duplicates. I also pulled some titles to donate to free up space because I knew there’s no way in hell my eyeballs would scan their pages. Some books stole my attention from shelving because I paused to read the back cover or inner flap. It was like perusing in a bookstore in my own apartment. The re-shelving also forced me to dust. Some of the older books’ tops hadn’t been dusted in years. I caught a case of the sneezies messing around with those books.
By the time I was done dusting, re-shelving and reorganizing, my bookshelf looked refreshed. I had a new sense of pride in my book collection. These hundreds of books, thousands of pages were all mine. They were my portals to other places and lives. Merry Christmas to me.