Is that the right word?
I don’t know if it’s the right word or not but when I think of the Christmas’s of my youth, that’s the word that comes to mind..
I can remember hoping that each year around the holidays, that this year was going to be different. There would be no family fights, the boozing would be kept to a minimum, the meal would taste better and that we would actually enjoy each others company.
Christmas always seemed to start a week early in my household. My father would go down the basement and drag out the ratty artificial Christmas tree and the boxes of lights and decorations that were hastily stashed away from last year. As God is my witness, in all the years growing up, I can’t remember ever getting anything new to put on the tree but somehow that was ok. After dumping the contents of the boxes and twisting and bending the tree so that it might somehow actually resemble something mother nature might have intended, the fun was about to begin.
My dad would crack open a bottle of J&B, pour himself a healthy dose, break out the phonograph (yup, you heard right!) and to the strains of the Jackie Gleason orchestra playing some kind of Hawaiian tunes, the decorating would begin.
First the lights had to be tested and those different color reflectors had to be attached to each one. I wasn’t allowed to do that, too dangerous. They were then placed around the tree with the touch of a drunken surgeon. I wasn’t allowed to do that, might knock the tree over. After each and every strand of lights went on the tree, my dad would walk away, pour himself another and admire his handiwork. Next to go on was the garland. I don’t know about you but the stuff we had seemed to be left over from the forties. Much of it was tattered and in pieces and somehow retied together to make a single strand. I wasn’t allowed to do that – not tall enough.
My father would somehow manage to get this stuff on the tree, walk away, pour himself another and sit back to admire his handiwork. Next came the ornaments. We didn’t have anything particularly fancy, mostly solid colors and made of that kind of glass that threatened to shatter if you looked at it the wrong way. I wasn’t allowed to help, these things were too fragile for my clumsy mitts and the thought of me breaking one and incurring my fathers wrath really wasn’t all that appealing anyway. The balls had to hung a certain way, little ones top, mid sizes in the middle and the larger ones at the bottom. Supposedly, this method had the effect of “tapering” the tree so that it looked like a green triangle. After each set of balls was hung, my father would pour himself another, sit back and admire his handiwork.
Last came the tinsel. Believe it or not, much of it had been retained from the year(s) before! My father would usually be pretty soused by now and he would grab some of it, and, to the strains of the music, dance his way over to the tree and ever so gently, toss the stuff onto the tree, step back, pour another shot, and admire his handiwork. I wasn’t allowed to help- to delicate a task for one so young.
During this time, my mom would be tucked away in the kitchen, cooking up a rather bland concoction that my dad would find fault with later. Hey, at least she tried. We would often wind up ordering out from a chicken joint that delivered. If memory serves, I think it was called “Chicken Delight” or something like that and I distinctly remember the grease-stained buckets of fried chicken and the accompanying odor that seemed to linger in the house for days.
After some fine-tuning was done to the tree, we were all summoned into the living room for the grand finale. As night approached and it started getting dark, the moment was upon us. My dad would pour another drink, dim the light in the house and plug in the tree. I guess it looked nice.
I dunno. This procedure repeated it self for at least five to seven years running. Since I wasn’t allowed to help, I never really felt part of it. Sorta like an innocent bystander about to observe the inevitable trainwreck that was sure to come. I guess “detached” would be a good word.
There’s a couple of things I’ve learned over the years…
Sure, I’ll have my fair share of holiday cheer and tilt a few back but not when she’s around. I’ve invited some friends over for a nice dinner of prime rib and shrimp appetizers, all lovingly prepared by yours truly. We had a blast putting up the tree and her hands were there to help. I’ve even managed to come to terms with my ex over the holidays as not to squabble about who’s spending how much time with who over the next couple of days. Shit, I even got her a Christmas present.
I guess what it boils down to is that I don’t want borgette’s memories to consist of fighting, bickering, chastising and any other sort of bad feelings that might arise during the holidays. They’re stressful enough, you don’t need to compound it anymore than you have to.
Here’s wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas from me and mine.