or the past three decades, I have found that the best way to lose the weight gained from our Thanksgiving banquets is to decorate our home for the upcoming Christmas season. This may sound a bit odd, but in the past I have found that finding, digging out, and hanging the things that define this holiday has a tendency to work off the added bulk. The weekend after Thanksgiving has always been a tradition in our family. Friday is meant to shop, usually starting at 5:00 in the morning. I have never been part of this tradition because my Debbie clearly understands that I would rather chew off my right arm than be found at Macy’s, or Filene’s, before the sun rises. This particular task has been relegated to the females of our family.
When my wife arrives home with a variety of merchandise that she bought for $25.95 instead of the regular price of $43,812.00, I know it is my time to have the decorating begin. The first thing I have to do is dig out the same decorations we have been using since we were married. Now this might sound like our festive things are old and shabby, but this could not be further from the truth. At the end of every Christmas season, that is the weekend of the New Year, my Debbie individually wraps all ornaments in its own tissue paper and places it in a specifically designated corner, of a specific plastic container, only to be taken out for the next Christmas season.
My job is to find the lights that go on each of the windows of our home. Because my wife is incredibly organized the lights are found in a separate green plastic box that is always near the top of the pile of boxes all of which are never labeled. You see these boxes are red or green clearly demonstrating that their contents are festive. Personal items that I store are always place in black boxes. I wonder if this has any significance?
The basic problem with organizing the lights is that it is also my responsibility to put them away after the holiday season. This means the wires and bulbs are a tangled mass that has the similarity of an old baseball that was hit a few too many times. Once I unravel the mess that takes me at least two and sometimes three beers, I find the candles that I am commissioned to place in all of our windows. These candles are in the form of Santa Claus and I believe they are at least ten years old. I am always in total shock that most of them still work. I once attempted to fix one that refused to light and then had to convince my Debbie that it was not necessary to put one in all of the garage windows.
After I finished that task it was my responsibility to find, and hang, the Christmas garland across all of our staircases. Normally this would be an easy task but it was also my responsibility to put the garland away, last season. In other words the garland made the lights look organized! A few more hours, and a few more beers, passed when I finally straightened out the mass of aluminum-colored tinsel and was about to hang it on the rails that surround our stairs.
This is when things become weird. Years ago, I cut each piece so that it would fit the different rails that surround our stairs and hall. I clearly remember measuring each piece so that they would hang at precisely the same angle, and swag. My wife, of course, managed this whole procedure, but every year, when I take out the garland, the pieces never fit. I wonder if they shrink, or there is some sort of animal living in our brightly-colored boxes that hold these decorations during the off-season. My last guess is that my wife has a more demented sense of humor than I originally thought! After a while the garland is finally up.
It is then my job to find, stretch out, and make a plastic rendition of a dead tree look like a Christmas tree. This is very difficult to do because the synthetic tree was placed in a box that is four-foot high and one foot in area. A smile always appears on my face as I pull the “tree” out of its box, because I remember stuffing it in box only a short year ago.
The tree comes out and it is now my task to stretch it open by bending the branches that I crushed at the end of last season. I also have to attach three sections together, so that it resembles what the perfect tree should look like. This sounds like an easy task, but remember that I had at least five beers to get me through the candles in the windows and the garland around the staircase. Charlie Brown’s tree should look as bad as my first attempt to build our Christmas tree. I always put what is supposed to be the middle of the tree on the bottom, where it is supposed to fit it in its base. Standing back I notice that the tree resembles something from where the Grinch must have been born. I finally figure it out and place it in the corner of the room.
My last and final quest is to put the lights around the tree. These are small white lights that, like the candles in our windows, I am awed they still work. The definition of ‘tangles’ is what this string of lights look like. My wife always has to leave the room, either because she is totally disgusted by how I stored them in the off-season, or she is too tired to hysterically laugh.
After another hour and, of course, a couple of beers, I straighten out the lights and begin my quest to arrange them so that they are evenly distributed around the tree. Originally, this is impossible because I always forget not to place the tree in the corner of my room before I put the lights around it. I clearly remember thinking that next year will be the year I will remember not to do this but I know I won’t.
I always start at the bottom making sure that I have enough wire to reach the plug that is in the corner of our room. Last year I actually surprised myself because I organized the lights to the point of having them look as though they were geometrically dispersed around the tree. I was proud of myself until I attempted to plug them in. It seems that I placed it on the top of the tree. I almost attempted to rewire the lights that year but then thought it best not to burn my house down during this festive time of year.
Decorating the rest of the house is the responsibility of my Debbie. She takes her time to place each and every one of her ornaments in their perfect spot. My house becomes a Christmas Wonderland, filled with homemade mementos of seasons gone-by. I love the way my house looks and everyone who visits is astounded by how beautifully it is decorated.
However all good things have to come to an end. It will soon be my time to collect all of the decorations that I am responsible for, and have only seen the light of day for a little under a month, and stuff them back into their allotted boxes, to wait until another Thanksgiving feast comes to an end.
Jim Fabiano is a teacher and a writer living in York, Maine, USA
e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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