It still feels wrong.
It’s like the Grinch that stole Boxing Day. Or Ralphie getting a Nerf gun under the tree. Or Santa Claus taking to the skies in a B-52. (“We have chimney acquisition!”)
But there’s no avoiding it. This Christmas, after a years-long struggle, I’m running up the white flag – preferably with multicolored lights attached.
This year, for the first time, Casa Rochat is getting a pre-lit tree.
OK, I know, I’m a little late to this party. There’s probably enough pre-lit wattage in the world right now to make the words “THIS WAY TO BETHLEHEM” visible from space, along with the related GPS coordinates.
But to me, it always seemed like cheating. There’s a right way to do Christmas lights, and that’s to drag out a series of dented cardboard boxes, untangle 17 miles of electrical cord, and solemnly intone the Ritual Seasonal Words Of Profanity before finally invoking the phrase that makes everything perfect:
“Honey … do you have a minute?”
Heather, you see, was my ace in the hole. My wife is a past master of Christmas light spacing, trained by her father in the arcane arts of making a tree “glow from within.” No gaps. No globs. And usually, no doubt about which way her blood pressure was going as she sought perfection.
By the end, this was a tree that knew it had been decorated. With love, attention and borderline insanity.
As Heather’s back began to develop problems, I became a larger part of the crew. Which usually meant that our tree got decorated twice – once by me, and once by Heather fixing the mistakes I had made.
“Honey, I really think it looks …”
“Scotty, there’s a huge gap right in the middle. It’s really obvious.”
“Uh … gap?”
“Here, let me do it …”
Well – it’s the thought that counts, right?
But this year, things came to a head. Repeated topplings by our canine companions Big Blake and Duchess the Wonder Dog meant that our old plastic pine had gotten a little ragged. Heather’s back hadn’t gotten any better since our last tree. Mine had gotten quite a bit worse.
So – surrender.
And not without regrets.
I can feel a few heads nodding here. We may be a minority these days, but I know there’s still a solid chunk of people that mistrusts making something too easy, who insist on doing things ourselves even when it no longer makes sense. Maybe it’s a leftover strain of Puritanism, a belief that if you haven’t suffered over it, it doesn’t really count.
And I still believe there’s a value in that, of putting something of yourself into what you do. That’s why I continue my long war with Scotch tape and wrapping paper, producing the most awkwardly-wrapped presents in the Western Hemisphere, rather than simply buying a gift bag. No one can doubt that time, effort and love were spent. (Notice I did not say skill.)
But when the time comes – so be it. There’s no shame in bowing to necessity. And while my stubbornness may be a bit ridiculous, at least it’s also ensured that it wasn’t done … er, lightly. That there was a reason beyond simple convenience.
That sort of close examination isn’t a bad thing. At any time of year.
So bring on that glowing tree. I’m sure it’ll be as tall and welcoming as anything we’ve raised before.
Especially once Heather gets through fixing it.