My first Christmas tree was a two-foot tall ‘tree in a box’ I got for $16.95 from K-Mart. To provide context, it’s the same kind of tree our adult children will bring for our rooms at the nursing home. It was December 1992; six months earlier I had graduated from college and fraternity life and was living on my own four hours from the nearest relative. I didn’t have a clue what Christmas was supposed to look like for a twenty-something who had little more than a cinder block TV stand and a stolen orange road cone for furniture. I possessed zero love life and slightly less money since any extra I did earn was quickly blown at the bars in an attempt to procure said love life.
I had accrued about five days of vacation at my new manager trainee job and knew it’d be spent back home with the family. Consider all of these points and our family had agreed not to exchange presents, I saw no need in having a tree at all, especially if that meant some pathetic Charlie Brown version for the coffee table, but wisely I decided this was a precedent I didn’t want to establish for fear of becoming one of ‘those guys’.
My pathetic excuse for holiday decor came with 25 lights, one of which served as the star, and a dozen plastic miniature ornaments. My favorite was a little brass French horn as it reminded me of my years in the high school band, which is odd since I didn’t play French horn in the high school band. But that one ornament has hung on every Christmas tree I’ve had since; it’s now a reminder of how far I’ve come.
I always assumed Christmas decorating would be the job of my future wife. Had I known then that one day I’d be in a similar predicament – that of trying to figure out what Christmas should look like, only now as a divorced father – I may have put more effort into it.
Life is certainly not without a sense of irony.
For me, Christmas decorating is like mowing your lawn. Unless careful you can easily get carried away losing all track of time and space and end up mowing over your azaleas and mistaking your cat for an ornament. Professionals call this being in ‘ the zone’ for its intense focus, for me anyway it’s usually in these times of mind numbing repetition that I do my most profound thinking.
So with that, here are some of this year’s more insightful observations and revelations:
♠ I would rather hang myself with dental floss than listen to any pop singer crucify a Christmas classic. For the record, no one on pain of death, should be allowed to sing The Christmas Song in light of Nat King Cole’s rendition. Is there any song better equipped to get one in the holiday spirit? And certainly Bing Crosby is doing cartwheels in his grave with Lady Gaga’s recording of his classic White Christmas, its a travesty on an epic scale. Any legitimate holiday soundtrack should be comprised only of artists who are already dead.
♠ Men are not physically adapted for Christmas decorating. While we may be able to bench press our body weight for three sets of ten, holding dainty lights over our head as we try to wrap them around the tree is a pain straight from the depths of hell. Secondly, we’re just not that detailed. I was unaware protractors are required decorating utensils to ensure each ornament is equidistant apart.
♠ Why is it that my Jewish ex-wife insists on being more festive at Christmas than I am? Are eight days not enough for her? Is she unaware the story of Christmas is in the other Testament? I’ve never met a Gentile with greater yuletide spirit or tackier decorating dexterity. Her poor parents must wonder where they went so wrong after seeing a ceramic Santa Clause and Rudolph next to the menorah.
♠ In the spring of each year, still picking needles out of my carpet, I make a promise that next Christmas I’ll get a fake tree. While it’s jolly that my home smells like an evergreen forest for the holidays; the fact remains that live trees are a pain. There’s the constant watering problem, their disposal at the end of the season is arduous, and I’m still rubbing off tree gum on Valentine’s Day. But then I see how much fake trees cost I’m amazed they can be as much as a mid-sized Korean sedan. At those prices not only should the trees last forever, they should decorate themselves, and poop gifts every Christmas morning.
♠ Kids from divorced families have it made during the holidays, in fact they have it made most every holiday. For the last eight years my kid’s have received two of everything – two Christmas’s, two Easter’s, two birthdays. And as is usually the case their mother and I do our unspoken best to one-up each other – makes me feel sorry for their future spouses. Not to mention my kids believe I’m a genius for negotiating special terms with Santa that he will drop off their presents this year for dad’s house a day early.
Here’s to you and a merry Christmas decorating season.