C.W. Gusewell

THE KANSAS CITY STAR

Captiva makes any day a holiday

“It’s time,” she insisted.

“Please, not yet,” I pleaded.

“Do you know what month this is?” she asked.

“I know, it’s March, but…”

The outcome, though, was certain.

“So the Christmas tree comes down.”

The ornaments are always a joy to handle. Some of them we brought back from our honeymoon in Mexico. Others were gifts from friends. They’d already been removed and packed away, but not the strings of little lights.

When I come downstairs in the dark of early morning and flip the wall switch, their merry twinkle evokes memories of the latest holiday season.

In past years I used to cut and bring home a shapely cedar from the farm. The needles were scratchy, and it would shed an awful mess when dragging it out to the curb for pickup. But the scent of it perfumed the room.

The current tree is of the everlasting kind, with folding branches and plastic greenery. There’s no earthly reason it couldn’t be left up, fully decorated the year round, even if that might cause summer visitors to regard us as a little weird.

But, no, it has to be stripped of its decorations to live the next several months in a box in the garage. And each year the dismantling is accompanied by a sense of something lost.

I think back to the those sweet December days when our family was all together, the talk easy and unhurried – both daughters and the two of us bent over a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle at the card table before the fireplace.

But that’s past. The consolation is what lies ahead.

Just off the west coast of Florida, reached by a causeway from Fort Myers, there’s a small island called Captiva to which, more times than I can readily count, we’ve fled to escape the end-of-winter nastiness.

It was in a cottage there, with waves whispering on the shore a stone’s throw from our window, that I wrote the first of these 3,800-some columns and where, with luck, I’ll write a good many more.

The principal trees are palms, with no ornaments on them except coconuts and now and then a lofty osprey nest.

The gifts to be found are seashells carried in on the tides – Scotch bonnets, whelks and angel-wing clams – and the occasional glass float from the net of some Japanese fishermen half a world away.

The cadence of the days, from the first morning cries of gulls until the orange sun slides down into the gulf at evening, is wonderfully restorative.

You’ll hear from me there, not to provoke envy but just to share the joy.