Last Thursday. 9pm.
My wife, “Tomorrow we’re going to decorate the house.”
I looked at the dog. She looked at me and ran. Coward.
I knew this day was coming. Every year during the first weekend in December, the members of my family spend the day decorating for Christmas. While we usually use the Sunday during that first weekend of December (so everyone can be involved), this year my wife and I were going to do it on a Friday. We both had off and the kids would be at school. She had run the calculations and without the kids there was a 90% chance no yelling or crying would be a part of the decorating. If we stayed away from each other, my wife informed me, the percentage would jump to 98. It was a daunting and frustrating task I was about to undertake for sure but worth it in the end to have the house looking like Christmas. Just the look is enough to get the kids excited which in turn gets my wife and I excited.
I went downstairs to the closet in the basement where we store our Christmas decorations. I had the unenviably task of unloading the Rubbermaid containers from the closet because apparently everyone in my house is either too small to carry a 50lb container with breakable decorations up a flight of stairs or they are too busy telling me to be careful not to drop anything. I created a tiny replica of the Great Wall of China in our dining room with the containers and walked away from them. Friday morning would be here soon and my day of dealing with the decorations. I kept telling myself it would be worth it.
Friday morning came and I opened the container with the strings of outside lights, although ‘strings’ may not be the best way to describe the lights. During the course of the year, while they sat in Rubbermaid container in the basement closet, the strings of lights transformed in to an indistinguishable knot.
I spent the morning calling on my knowledge of knots I learned trying to get my Wolf badge as a Cub Scout trying to untangle them. My wife was talking on the phone while she put replaced pictures with Snow Buddies and drank the rest of the coffee; meanwhile I was on the front porch swearing and trying to figure out how in the world I was going to undo the Gordian knot the lights were in without firing up my chainsaw.
A miracle the likes of which would make healing lepers seem like a parlor trick, I got the lights untied, strung around the porch and plugged in and all lit after only a few hours.
I got back inside to my wife walking up the stairs.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going upstairs. I’m tired and I want to take a nap before the kids get home. I promised them they could help me decorate the tree when they get home from school. You need to get the lights on the tree pronto.”
With that she went upstairs and left me in the living room. Left me alone with the tree and 3 strands of lights rolled into the same kind of knot the outside lights were rolled in to. I gave thought to my chainsaw again but thought better of it (plus I knew it was out of gas).
I got the snarled mess of lights untied (henceforth I would like to be known as ‘Houdini’) and began the annual ‘testing of the lights’ ceremony. The time honored tradition of making sure my lights work before I wrap them around the Christmas tree. This tradition is filled with intrigue, suspense, swearing, and never success.
The first strand was a dud. I switched out bulbs to no avail. I tried the tiny fuses which did nothing but put me in a worse mood. Strands 2 and 3 both worked which was the only thing that saved the tree from being thrown through my front window.
I would go on to work on the lights longer than the Punic Wars took. I made 2 trips to the store for new lights (Did I mention strand 3 quit on me after I had it around the tree?), wrapped, unwrapped, and rewrapped the lights and sometime around 8pm, I finished. Twelve hours later.
I was aggravated. I was tired. Had I been able to get my hands on someone from GE Christmas Lights division, I would have probably punched him (or her) in the throat. I wasn’t much for enjoying Christmas as I transported the empty containers back downstairs to the closet. But when I finished and came up from the basement, I saw my kids and wife decorating the tree. I heard their laughter mixed with the Christmas music my wife had playing. I looked around the house at all the decorations that had been set out and saw the glow of the outside lights through the front window I had spared from the tree earlier that day. I heard my kids’ excited voices swell with each ornament they hung as if each one brought Christmas a little closer. That’s when I felt the frustration I had all day long melt away. I saw the decorations, the tree, and my family and thought, for the headache that was this day of decorating, our house was looking like Christmas and that made it all worth it.