Merry as $^$^: A Christmas Tale
I’ll just start this out by being honest: I’m supposed to be working. But you guys need to know this story. So really, I’m acting selflessly by writing about it right now. You’re welcome.
So. Christmas decorating. I love Christmas decorations, though setting them up is basically performing hard manual labor during a harshly cold, dark, overly busy season. And then add in children, who push you to decorate but then quickly lose interest and start complaining and/or fighting and/or roughly handling fragile items I am nostalgic about.
Leon has spent the last several weeks maniacally trying to finish his coursework before a deadline that was two weeks earlier than he had been thinking it was. (Meanwhile our house has been really clean for months, and he’s really done a stellar job of catching up on everything except this schoolwork. Cough. Ahem.)
So anyway, this year the decorating was kind of on me, while he frantically worked, unless I wanted to wait until mid-December, which I really didn’t. Christmas lights and the tree sort of help get me through this cold, dark month. And also it’s possible I don’t always act in my own self-interest.
The first weekend of December was going to be incredibly busy, so of course I decided we should get the tree on Friday, because that was one of our only free time slots and I wanted the kids to be able to decorate it on our weekend with them.
I thought I could just take the kids down to our local Ace Hardware and we’d snag a tree and whip it home. But then I remembered that I was not going to be able to put a Christmas tree on top of my car with just a six-year-old and an eight-year-old helping. So I asked my neighbor if I could borrow his truck. He said sure, if he could find his keys. So I fretted around the house a while, waiting, and then decided, hey, I could just fold all the seats flat in the car, which is a bit like a station wagon. Yes! We could let the tree hang out the back! But would the kids fit? I couldn’t leave Leon in charge of three kids while he was trying to work. At this point, as I schemed, Leon seemed to be doubting the wisdom of my plan, but I am a smart grownup! I’ve got this! I’ve done this before! We’re fine!
Thankfully Asher asked if he could go play at the neighbors’, Selah was doing her own homework, and I decided that just this once, Noah could ride in front the three blocks home from the store. It took a bit to find ropes and fold the seats down and move car seats around, and it was already basically Noah’s bedtime by the time we were actually ready. It should be noted that I had already way overdone it that day, so I was starting to feel a little screamy.
And off we went, chatty Noah and screamy Mommy, down to the hardware store.
Honestly, I don’t really like choosing Christmas trees. It’s stressful in the cold and dark area crowded with trees to try to find one that I won’t bring home and then quickly discover it has no branches on the front. I feel weighed down by the responsibility of choosing a good tree and not failing the family. I feel a little guilty criticizing and rejecting the trees too. I have issues.
Also this gets four times as hard when a six-year-old is saying, “What about this one?” (fourteen feet tall) “What about this one?” (literally has no branches) “Hey, what about this one?” (MAYBE EGAD I DON’T KNOW JUST LET ME LOOK FOR A MINUTE) “Can we go home?”(NOT IF YOU NEVER STOP TALKING TO ME WHILE I AM LOOKING AT TREES OH MY GOSH WE’RE GOING TO DIE HERE) “Hey, how about this one?”
I helped him understand that we wanted one with a tag indicating the right height, and that helped a little, and then we finally found one that seemed to have the correct number of evenly spaced branches–but wait, this is a different kind of tree and I don’t like these needles. Could I live with it? What to do? “What about this one?” (sigh)
Finally Noah found one that actually was a really good tree and it was the right height and just packed with branches and the top looked like a good spot for a star. I asked the nice young boy employee if he could trim the branches off the bottom though, since they basically went all the way to the ground. He responded in the affirmative, and I took Noah inside to start the incredibly long process of letting him choose some kind of ornament that was neither something we already had nor something that cost $600. I couldn’t even remember why I ever said he could choose one, but I did, so I couldn’t renege. “How about this one?” (That’s a thirty-foot-high inflatable Santa costing $899.) “How about this one?” (We literally have eight boxes of those.)
Oh and Noah wanted to get some of the free popcorn and he wanted to get some for his siblings and so I walked out the car balancing two bags of popcorn and the battery-operated candles that Noah chose out (and has already broken) while he chatted and cheerfully ate popcorn.
At long last, we got to the car while spilling popcorn, we managed to heave and wrangle and get the tree fully into the back, even shutting the hatch–miracle!–and I drove my extremely chatty child home well past his bedtime. My ears were ringing a bit, but we were almost done. He only spilled a little popcorn on the way. Leon texted to say he’d come out help carry the tree in if I texted him when we were home.
I was so relieved to pull into the driveway. At last! Time to rest!
Leon met us at the door. “There’s a problem.” He looked grave. I literally wanted to throw a tantrum. No problems! No! I wanted to rest!
So he had decided to take a quick break from work to move the couch a little further so that we’d have more room to set up the tree. The problem is that we have a little three-plug outlet converter plugged in behind the couch, and when he pushed the couch, it scraped against the converter and its plugs and there was a huge zap that broke a light bulb and took out the electricity in a substantial portion of the house.
It also scared one of the cats, who had been eating out of the large self-feeder bowl, and that cat took off, knocking the bowl off the cabinet top and scattering approximately ten cups of cat food on the floor.
So before bringing the tree in, we all systematically repaired the damage, cleaning, wandering around the yard flipping all the fuses off and on, etc., resetting the clocks and having a bit of an argument about fuses based on my grumpiness. Selah wanted to help, and the boys were mostly just thrilled they didn’t have to go to bed yet. I was a wee bit surly at this point.
When we finally got to the point where we could bring the tree in, we did so, and put it into the tree stand. Immediately more needles fell to the floor than I had even thought were on the tree. Unfortunately, on our first attempt to put it into the stand, the many branches still at the bottom became entangled with the screws, and so while the tree was unable to stand upright because it was right in the front of the stand, we also couldn’t get it out of the stand or move it in the stand. We tried laying the tree down and taking the holder off, and we tried pushing and shoving, and we tried to lift the tree straight up and out and then shaking it (more needles), all to no avail. We really needed two Leons–one to hold the tree completely off the floor, and one to maneuver the branches and screws and tree stand–but unfortunately we only had one Leon and one me. So I kind of uselessly held the tree straight while he tried to both lift it and get the &^&$*% tree stand off the bottom. I don’t really know what he did, because I was mostly standing there uselessly, but after probably twenty minutes of exertion he got the blasted tree out of the blasted tree stand and we were able to start again. Eventually we got the stupid tree into the stupid stand with the stupid screws tightened enough to keep the stupid tree that I didn’t even really want anymore upright. Leon went back to work, and I tried to cherish my maybe twenty minutes of quiet time after the kids went to bed and before I did.
I didn’t even try to put the lights on the tree for several days, kind of wiping out my reasoning for getting it late Friday: so that the kids could decorate it on the weekend. I was too busy hanging lights outside, teetering on a ladder while yelling at Noah, who didn’t want to help Asher hold the ladder, citing things like boredom and not wanting to. I managed not to say, “Christmas won’t happen if I’M DEAD,” but it was implied.
I had found it nearly miraculous that all of the light strings worked when I pulled them out of the boxes this year. I found it less miraculous when one of them worked when we double-checked them Saturday morning but no longer worked after I had struggled to hang it on the house.
I’m not sure what the moral of the story is here, but I do know that my lights and decorations are up, and honestly I’m not sure I’m going to take them back down again. Ever.
I often say “the #1 thing that tests my marriage is putting up a Christmas tree”. I literally cannot tell if the blasted thing is straight or not, I hate standing in the cold and picking one out. Standing there while we put lights on the dang thing and then fighting with my kids about who is putting up what ornament. Joy to the world?!?
On the other hand, it’s up!