Thursday, December 2, 2010

Up on the Housetop

The nice weather we experienced in the earlier days of November encouraged many folks to get outside and hang, nail, staple, wire and otherwise attach a wondrous plethora of brightly lit Christmas decorations to the exterior of their homes.
Not me, though.
It's not that I especially like climbing ladders and wrestling with tangled strings of half-dead lights and itchy, sticky pine garlands in the colder days of December. It's just that we like the look of pumpkins, fall leaves and corn shocks, and think they're more appropriate in the days leading to and through Thanksgiving. To me, a house layered with lighted candy canes and twinkling stars before you even get your first taste of stuffing and gravy is rushing a season that is already shoved into too-early existence by retail abominations like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I did kind of admire the ingenuity of a guy down the street who combined his Christmas decor with a giant inflated turkey, but, for the most part, I'd rather wait.
But now, Thanksgiving is over.
I'm out of excuses.
Say what you will about owning a big house. It's hard (and expensive) to heat in the winter, and even pretty tricky to keep cool in summertime, once its high-ceilinged rooms really fill up with hot, humid air.
But it's a great place for Christmas.
Those same high ceilings, a fireplace and mantle, an open staircase and bannister, and a large, pillared porch all beckon, waiting for red and green (and white and gold and silver) finery to celebrate the coming of the season. As in many of the things we do, one of us is management, while the other is labor. As the blue-collar member of our team, it is generally my job to climb the ladders and mount the porch railings with coat pockets bulging with stapler and hammer, to bring her mind's-eye holiday vision to life.
"A little higher on the right," she said, as I clung to a porch pillar like a rickety, middle-aged monkey. "Maybe you should come down and look at it."
Come down? Look at it?
Feeling--as I did--like a tree-trapped kitten waiting for the fire department, and afflicted--as I am--with male pattern blindness, I hastened to assure her, as I always do, that whatever she thought looked right was way fine with me.
Large as our house is, you might think it would be hard to decorate the entire thing, but we have an entire room in the basement--called the "holiday room"--dedicated to the trappings of each season, plus specific holidays like Easter, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and, especially, Christmas. The room currently contains no less than six full-sized artificial trees and a whole herd of miniature models, which are the unnatural descendants of years and years worth of the "fresh' trees that we used to carefully stalk, choose, cut and drag home. The last of those was a 10-foot beauty now known in family lore as the "Chernobyl Tree," because it slowly, quietly and inexplicably turned brown and dropped each and every one of its 17 gazillion needles the week before Christmas over a decade ago.
We made a panicky buy of our first fake fir that year, and have prowled the after-Christmas sales ever since, looking for new members of the brigade of balsams that now bedeck our abode. They don't all make the cut every year, but on those glorious occasions when we are expecting kids and grandchildren for the holidays, it's apt to be a tree in just about every room.
And the trees are just the beginning in a decorating scheme that includes all manner of wreaths, garlands, candles, angels, Santa Claus figures and--most importantly, the Nativity that marks the real reason for the season.
Both of our sons and their families are, indeed, coming for Christmas this year, if weather and circumstances allow, so I suspect we're gonna be going all out to transform our dwelling into a child-friendly forest of light and color. We took advantage of a kinda-balmy Sunday to put lights and garlands on the outside and are now working on the inside, but I'm not sure I'm really finished with the exterior display. So if you drive by and see a life-size figure of Santa Claus waving from the roof, please take a second look.
It may not be Santa at all.
It might just be me, up on the housetop, waving for help.
Desperately seeking a safe way down.

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