By: Sheila Gaudet
After spending the weekend of family togetherness putting up Christmas decorations, I’m free to admit that there were moments…ok…hours…where I wondered if anyone would notice if I didn’t do it. I have two school aged boys and a husband who all are part of the process, but I often feel like it’s a one-man show. I know some families who have beautiful “Hallmark Moments” when it comes to getting ready for the holidays, but we are not one of those families.
Our holiday decorating includes a public debate about the height of the potential tree at the tree farm vs. the actual height of our living room ceiling and how one might impact the other. It includes lengthy discussions about where at least one type of light should be (this year, it was the netting lights for the bushes. They were found mixed in with the Christmas tree ornaments on day 2), a few broken ornaments, and usually some arguing. I have optimistic visions every year that the boys have matured, we’ve worked out the tweaks and that this year it will all be like those holiday specials.
This year the weekend planned for decorating included a high school dance, two Cub Scout activities on Saturday, a pet portrait sitting, and a few final projects for my school that are due today. I was determined, I scheduled, I failed.
I might need to mention that my husband and I have been married about a year and a half. He has never been part of the Christmas decorating process, because he’s always been out of town and so usually swoops in for Christmas to find the house decorated, cookies baked, presents purchased and wrapped. I don’t even know if he realizes we send out Christmas cards. I have a system, imperfect, but a system. My husband thinks he has a system. These two systems have nothing even remotely connecting them together.
My husband has never had to decorate his own house. Can you see this might be a problem? First, we cannot find the stepladder. How you lose a stepladder when you have two garages is beyond me, but this is the first problem. I’m still not sure what they did to get on the roof, but next thing I know my husband is up there. Now, he didn’t take the lights with him, or the clips, and has never used them before, so I’m now throwing up the icicle lights and the clips and instructing the 14-year-old on how to clip them on to the gutter without falling and splitting his head open. (Dave Ramsey says that if someone has ever changed your diaper they can never completely trust you with money advice, but I would also include that they will always think you are going to crack your skull open anytime you are above a height of three feet). We get the lights hung, I find the extension cord (because I put it away when I cleaned the garage this summer), toss it up to the rooftop, plug them in and “TADA,” half a strand is out. We try a couple things, but decide it can wait until tomorrow for proper assessment as it’s getting dark. In the meantime, I’m fluffing bows and hanging wreaths. As I’m doing this, my husband is above me, cleaning out the gutters. Got the vision? Not pretty. Some netting on the bushes (I swore we had more lights last year!) and we are done for the day.
The next day is scheduled to put up the tree. I figure we can do that and I can still have plenty of time to work on schoolwork. I take the dogs for their pet portrait (which could have been an hour-long comedy special even though it only took about 20 minutes), the boys are all getting things together for the tree event.
Long and ugly story short-when you are cutting the bottom off the tree, measure twice, cut once. Otherwise your tree looks like a bush and your wife cries a lot. We regroup by putting up all the other inside decorations (at least most of them) before bringing in the Christmas bush. My younger son keeps asking about the tree during the entire process. There is no good answer. There is no way to get all my ornaments on the existing tree, so the teenager and I make the call that we will just do the lights and kids ornaments.
The kids ornaments include the ones I buy them each year as part of their individual collections as well as the collection of homemade ornaments we have collected over the years. A few CDs of holiday music and a successful test of the lights and peace and goodwill is restored. The house isn’t finished and I haven’t started shopping yet. The tree is not what I would have envisioned in my dreams. My 8-year-old pronounced it our “BEST TREE EVER!” More importantly, he specifically said how much he loved our family time together. For a child who doesn’t show a lot of affection or vocalize feelings much, this reminded me that holiday gifts come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes the best presents are those things we didn’t even know we needed.