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Making Christmas

Yesterday morning, I woke up at 6:30 am and was completely wide awake, which sucks because what a waste of a Saturday morning. If it’s a weekend and I wake up early enough where I could plausibly make it to work on time, I feel as though I’ve failed my Monday through Friday self somehow. All those mornings when I just wished I could never leave the bed, all that angst going unfulfilled. A travesty, that’s what that is.

I got up and checked e-mail, which is my morning routine, but then I heard the alarm going off. Crap, did I forget and set it by accident? No, it was way too late for my alarm. I heard Esteban get up and turn it off and then he walked through the dining room and asked why I was up already. He was planning to work all day, since he lost so much time at his conference, but I had no excuse. We made plans to shower and get dressed and whatnot and then recon in the kitchen at 0730 for a mission to procure coffee.

On the way to fetch coffee, however, my stomach growled. The previous night, Esteban had made two perfectly marbled New York Strips and then created a bourbon pan reduction using Maker’s Mark and stock which was so delicious that it made one want to weep. Or so Esteban claimed. I wouldn’t know because my stomach was still experiencing horrible cramps and the sounds were truly frightening. Sometimes there would be a low moaning and then the sound of rusty hinges being wrenched open and then I swear to God there were footsteps. My gut was turning into the Haunted Fucking Mansion ride at Disneyland.

So I missed out on the perfect pan reduction, which was really a shame since he was so proud of it. But one extra night of bread and water (minus the bread, because hello carbs) was clearly needed. So when my stomach growled, actually growled from hunger the next morning on the way to get coffee, it was a beautiful thing. I suggested that we go out for breakfast instead. Bonus: We were up so early that we beat the typical Saturday morning breakfast stampede. I managed to eat two mini pancakes, scrambled eggs and half of a steak before reaching the limit. I was energized from the hearty breakfast, and after we swung through Starbucks, I ran over the possibilities for the day. Esteban barricaded himself in his office, so I decided that I would put the Christmas tree up.

This sounds a lot easier than it was. You see, all of the Christmas ornaments and paraphernalia was properly boxed and stowed under the basement stairs by yours truly, many many years ago. Some time in the last century, in fact. You see, Tilly is a tree killer. She killed our first artificial Christmas tree and every breakable ornament we owned. We rebuilt, because we were young and energetic, and bought a huge sturdy tree that would seemingly withstand the assault by the monster kitty, and it did. In fact, it is so sturdy that she was then able to climb it and perch on the highest stable branch, decimating any ornament in her ascent path. At that point, you get a little disheartened with the tree tradition, after you spend a couple of years redecorating the same tree a dozen times in one week.

During the Kringle-less years, friends would ask if we were going to put up another tree again, and I would think about it and reply that we would put up the tree again when enough years had passed to make me forget the despair of pulling into the driveway and seeing a blank patch of window where the tidings of great joy were supposed to be.

The number of years required is apparently nine.

In the passing nine years, we’ve accumulated possessions, as one does, and also, Esteban has haphazardly just dropped things off in the storage area in a cluttered horrible fashion, which meant that in order to even get to the stuff, I had to reorganize Esteban’s camping supplies, de-spider web several cubic yards of head space, and consolidate the victims of his last trip in which he left all of his suitcases unnested and loitering around the basement in a weird luggage Stonehenge formation. Between that and running boxes up the stairs, that took about an hour. I made him wrestle the actual tree up the stairs, because it’s so heavy and in such an unwieldy box that I just can’t manage it. He ended up actually throwing it halfway up the stairs and then rolling it end over end because it was such a monster.

I got the tree together and then started on the lights. Esteban has a bunch of bubble lights from his childhood that he’s never let me put on the tree, citing my fear of seasonal house fires (In different years, my mother and my sister lost almost everything they owned in house fires that occurred within four and five days preceding Christmas) and the fact that they have to get hot enough to boil the liquid inside the tubes. But this year, fuck it. It’s not like I can handle leaving a lit tree unattended anyway.

After I untangled and used the last of the antique replacement bulbs for the nonworking bubble lights, I realized that we didn’t have an unused extension cord with a single off switch. I was wheezing from all the dust anyway, so it was a good time to take a break. I headed out to Target and ended up buying an awesome tree topper and a decent surge protector. Our tree skirt was third hand and looked so ratty and incongruous with our ornaments that it was time to get a new one, but the only one I liked was part of their Shabby Chic line and looked way too feminine. Esteban always complains that I go too classy with the Christmas decorations and that he likes some of the tacky kitsch. Hmm. WWMSD? Time to go to Kmart and find out.

On the drive over, I was singing along with my iPod, which was making its way through every single Christmas song, and found myself singing along to Yoko Ono on ‘So This Is Christmas’ when I was struck by what a good mood I was in. I smelled like sweat from wrestling with boxes, my hair had glitter in it and I was in the midst of a constant low grade asthma attack, but really, I was in a really good mood. Behold, the power of a good solid breakfast.

Kmart is such an odd retail duck. I probably only go there once a year and that’s usually to check out the Martha Stewart holiday stuff. They were almost out of tree skirts, but I did find a white one decorated with blue and silver snowflakes that seemed to be in line with what both Esteban and I like. I also ended up with my wrapping plan, a little by accident. I had purchased some black and white wrapping accessories when they first showed up at Target several weeks ago, but that savvy little minx Martha had really gorgeous Tiffany blue wrapping paper with white deer on it. I snagged every roll. I also grabbed a big wreath bow for our lamppost in the front yard and then headed home. I finished wrapping the tree in lights then went outside and did the boxwoods out front with the fairy lights I had unearthed. I also threw the wreaths onto the appropriate doors, threw the bow on the lamppost and then made a note to myself to buy bulbs since the last of the three inside the lamppost had finally given up, almost a full year after its brethren. I went back inside and hung our stockings by the fireplace thermostat and then put out my great grandmother’s ceramic tree nativity scene as well as Esteban’s grandmother’s little woodland elf thing.

I found tons of bags I must have purchased at post Christmas sales in previous years, loads of ornaments and whatnot still in their original boxes. After eight solid hours of holiday decorating, I finally had enough whatnot on the tree so that it looked more or less finished. Considering that this is the first time I’ve put the tree up using 90% of these decorations, I’m amazed by how really together it looks. Obviously, there are some outliers that don’t look quite right, usually things that were gifts from friends or family, but I think it balances it nicely. If I had a tree stylist, they would call them ‘accent pieces.’

Immediately I had to snap pictures, since I was certain that Tilly would see it and set out making plans to take it down, perhaps this time with a feline death ray or perhaps with a trebuchet constructed out of chopsticks.

(I’ve found many more untouched ornaments that have to go up, and Esteban needs to look at the final strand of bubble lights, because they haven’t fared well over the years and need some maintenance, so pictures will be posted later.)

After tree trimming, I suggested take out, because there was no way that either of us could cook anything. There were boxes all over the kitchen that still needed to be taken downstairs again, and I was exhausted and wheezy. I was in the mood for ribs, so I pulled one of my classic high maintenance moves and drove to Appleton to get take out from Famous Dave’s. I didn’t really care, though. It was nice to sit still and I don’t mind the drive. The ribs were not piping hot by the time I got home, but they were definitely delicious. Esteban popped a bottle of merlot and then we settled in to watch a DVD of Da Ali G Show. After dinner and the DVD, Esteban played WoW. I had clearly overcompensated for the past week’s meager rations and had eaten way too many ribs (although man, they were delicious), so I sprawled in bed and watched something on Tivo, then woke up several hours later to Timberlake on SNL. Esteban came to bed shortly thereafter and said that he could see my face in the dark because of all the glitter and then mentioned that the living room floor looked as though someone had thrown a rave.

Any day that stages Christmas and comes out smiling is a very good day.

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