For a two and a half year old there are certain things, in this world, that are not to be questioned. One is whether or not they want your help on something. My kid’s pre-programmed response to any question of that nature is, “I do it myself.” Another is if they want to help YOU do something. My kid wants to help me work on my laptop, banging away at the keys, popping out the plastic flash card insert or just plain ole yanking the wireless mouse USB receiver right out of the port on the side. But, sometimes her intentions are good. This weekend was the annual Griswold tree trimming event where yours truly makes the long arduous trek up into his attic to retrieve the big ole honking Christmas tree from its secured location in the back of the decorations and to the left of the dismantled futon. Needless to say, it does not fit through the door very well, either way, and tends to leave more paint chips and ripped off insulation in its wake than plastic needles. I accepted it from my in laws as a replacement for the $70 Ames special 6’ 5” Spruce that consists of a pole and 40 or so individual branches that must be fluffed and unfolded before inserting tab A into slot B on its respective tier. This is what we call fun, right?
After doing some light spackling, I’m ready to get the tree into place. The first thing that we have to do is make room. That involves moving the furniture around, flip flopping the entertainment center and the couch and then taking the recliner, AKA my shirt shop design studio, and putting it on the opposite wall, next to the tree. The love seat that was in that spot now gets put up my ass because I have no place for it whatsoever in the living room. Last year we put it in a spare bedroom right after we put on top of one of my cats… long story, go here. But, in order to put the couch into the spare bedroom, we had to slide it down the hall with very little clearance, taking into account door knobs. After that, I to pull the bedroom door off the hinges, remove the legs from the couch and then actually have an empty space to sit it on once in the room. We managed to forgo that geometrical math problem from hell and fit it nicely on the back porch. No, I don’t have an El Camino up on blocks in the driveway. The porch is enclosed and there is no washing machine out there.
OK, the tree is up and all I have to do is plug it in and decorate it. Prelit trees are cool, huh? Now, why the hell is half of the tree not lit? So, I dismantled Devastator, as I call it, and checked the plugs. This is the one thing I hate about prelit trees. If you lose a strand and the fuses are good, you have to check every bulb and it’s not like they are all clearly marked, and it’s not like I have a lot of light to work with, and it’s not like I have the greatest eyesight in the world. In this situation you have two options. Spend the next two hours checking every single bulb to make sure that it isn’t the problem, or be a Plugger, like I am and just add a string of lights in the darkened areas. My wife hates this method but the tree is one of the few places I win out in an argument. Now, instead of working hard, I like to work smart. Efficiency in the work place as I call it. Let’s wring out problems and have a well oiled machine. Anyway, instead of putting it all together, I started with Devastators bottom, added a string of lights to the darkened area and then added another section and then checked all those plugs.
What occurred next could only be described as hearing the internal thoughts of a referee reviewing a play on the field. “It’s out. No, it’s in. It’s out. It’s in. it’s blinking?” I looked at my wife and said, “Blinking?” The plug must be shot because you had to hold it a certain way to keep the string on and then of course you had two other strands plugged into that one all dependent on the first one’s ability to stay lit. At one point I must have been jiggling the plug, causing it to blink. I finally got it situated into a staying on position and then added two more strands of lights to what was still dark. This isn’t a fire hazard, no.
After getting Devastator’s head on and plugged in, I could begin decorating. Now, this is a point of contention between my wife and I. She wanted to listen to Christmas music while she cleaned and I decorated. The selection on the cable music channels was lacking, although I did enjoy Bob Seger’s “Little Drummer Boy,” so I opted to switch the channel and found ABC Family running Harry Potter movies. That’s Christmas-y right? The point of contention comes in because my wife thinks that I work better without the distraction. I think that commercials make me work faster and get more done while the movie allows me to take time and really get a good look at the tree, making sure all the ornaments are properly placed. They go on in this order. Strands of pearls first. Balls and other solid objects go on next, usually silver, gold, blue, and then burgundy, respectively. Next comes all the specialized ornaments like figurines. Then the ribbon goes around and finally, the bow. If all goes well I should be done in two hours.
Four hours later, my daughter was up and helping me put on the last ornaments. It was a good movie, what can I say? She even helped put on her own ornament and held the ribbon as I ran it around the tree. All the while saying “I help” and “I do it, myself.” I explained that the ornaments are glass and could break. She finally agreed to let me do it and then tried to put the empty cardboard ribbons spools on the tree. Well, they weren’t made of glass, so technically, she was allowed, I guess.
Having the tree up the first weekend of December is a feather in my cap as a holiday purist. Unfortunately, I spend the next three weekends criticizing my work and moving low hanging ornaments up out of the reach of cat and kid. I even found one of them snuggled under the tree skirt, hidden from view. The cat, not the kid. By the end of the month, the bottom of the tree is mostly just lights and the top is laden with all kinds of ornaments that have sought higher ground as if a flood threatened their lower living arrangements.
Usually, my wife has a lot to say about how the tree looks. It’s one of those things that as the decorator you can’t get a handle on because you are too close to it. She nods or asks me to move something, which is fine. At least the one person I can count on to like it is my daughter. After she woke up from her nap and wandered into the living room, the half decorated tree was dim in comparison to her bright eyes and smile. “Oooohh” she said. “That’s a pity Critmas Tree, Daddy-O”
“Thank you.” I reply. “Would you like to put your ornament on?”
“Yeah. That’s a good idea.” She said.
“Yep. It is.”