It’s that time of year again, when houses are getting decorated, trees put up, and shoppers are giving each other the finger for stealing their parking space at malls all over this great country of ours. It’s also the time when The Have’s will occasionally donate some of their stuff to The Havenot’s, so they can be Have’s for a while.
Some of The Havenot’s will lose patience while waiting for Toys For Tots to deliver however, and take matters into their own hands. So it’s also the time of year when we get a nice spike in the crime rate. It’s not just the lack of stuff, or the lack of ability to buy stuff, but the pressure folks feel this time of year to have and to hold stuff. Domestic violence, burglaries, armed robberies, road rage incidents, all go up this time of year. Most restaurants will have an annual “Safety Meeting” with their staff, which is all about how not to get robbed; and how not to get shot if you do.
Our next-door neighbors have decided this would be a good time of year to beef up their own home security, and have installed spotlights trained on their side and back yards. Nice idea, but two of them are beaming directly into our bedroom window and have the candlepower of a small sun. Sleeping in our bedroom now is kind of like living a summer in Iceland, with the sun setting, well, never. Is it too late to ask Santa for that “Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle”, so I can pop out one or two of these tanning-machine-wattage bulbs?
Domestic violence goes up this time of year, with divorced couples arguing over who gets the kid on Eve vs. Day, and where the hell is the spousal support, you deadbeat, so I can go shopping, etc. It’s also the time of year when one small tradition can put undue stain on an otherwise healthy relationship, with results ranging from simple shouting matches to divorce to gunshot wounds. I’m talking, of course, about The Tree.
It always starts out as a nice idea, “Hey, let’s go get The Tree after work tonight…” and visions of brightly lit Christmas Tree lots, the steam from frosty breath, and aromas of pine needles and hot chocolate go dancing through our heads. But somewhere out there, a 10-hour work day and a 45-minute commute are lurking, waiting to crash your party and curdle your eggnog, sucking your enthusiasm for the idea as dry as the week-old Thanksgiving stuffing in the back of your fridge. You finally get home, have that cocktail, and start thinking about dinner; it’s 7:15 already, after all. No one is saying it, but everyone is thinking it: “Aren’t we going to go and get The Tree?” So you Himmm and Hawww and, maybe argue lightly (“Can’t we just do it on Saturday morning? I’d be more into it then…”) Bucking up, coats and gloves on, and out into the car, we have gone from “Let’s go get the tree tonight!” to “Can we please just go and get this shit over with?”
Spirits rise markedly, however when we get to The Brightly Lit Christmas Tree Lot, and begin to make our selection. I use the term “we” very loosely here. I have learned, through years of marital and parental experience, that this is one of those times where I am to just nod my head in agreement, and say only things like, “Oh, I agree” or “Yes, that’s a beauty” and “Whichever one you like, baby”. I am not to grimace or argue when asked to fork over the Mastercard to pay $85 for something I will strap to the top of my car, drag into our home, mount on a spike in our front room, vacuum up behind several times, and water daily (“Did you water the tree today??” Yes, I watered the effing tree today…) in order to keep it alive long enough to finally pay the Boy Scouts $15 to haul it away again, three weeks from now.
The other thing I have learned in over 15 Christmases worth of marriage is to let Her do the lights. At first. Even though I am tasked every year with the disassembly, storage of said lights, and the dispatching of the dead tree to the curb, I must subvert my natural Manstincts of not knowing how to do shit, but insisting on doing it anyway, and sit quietly. Pretending not to be watching, I make only the occasional commentary grunt at her technique.
Here is where couples with any kind of chinks in their relationship armor will get into trouble, and you will end up with Police Activity. But I’m confident that the “Here, why don’t you give it a try?” will come soon enough. I know that she will try, in vain, to remove the strings of lights from the box. Lights, that when put away last year, were all neatly bundled to help expedite their re-installation the following December, but have somehow come alive during their storage in the attic and spontaneously contorted themselves into a tangled mass resembling a bucket of Night Crawlers. Knowing this, I am confident I will eventually be drafted into service; and my manly yet gentle and fake-patient demeanor in the face of all this frustration will firmly secure the bonds of marriage for another year. “Here baby, let me help you…”
Now, working together, we dutifully test our strings of festive Holiday lights, which will work fine at first plug-in; but as soon as they are installed on our tree, or way the hell up on our roof and gutters, every third bulb will fail, or half of a strand won’t light, no matter how many of those frustratingly small fuses we change. It’s my Conspiracy Theory that, as a driving force of the Chinese economy, these things are assembled (in a country which doesn’t even celebrate Christmas by the way), and designed with tiny timers that allow them to function fully for one year only, then go on the blink (pun intended) the next; but not until they are fully installed, driving a spike through your brain, and leading to the eventual purchase of more. It’s enough to make a Christmas-Only Catholic like me seriously consider converting to Judaism. Can’t we just put up a Menorah, light some friggin’ candles and be done with it. Oy.