I got my first Christmas gifts today. And, while technically I handed out presents to my parents weeks ago, I couldn't let them arrive, drop off gaily-wrapped bags and then depart. Soooo, they got my hand-made cards inside of a big ho-ho-ho box, the cards having gas cards to pay for the fuel that brought them to my door. And then back to theirs.
Luckily, the tree was up and decorated last weekend, as my child labour force came through with their usual great job. The mob, which has gained and lost several members over the years, was (left to right) A.J., Angela and her friend Megan this year. We started the day off by getting the yearly ornaments for each of them. Must say Megan stepped up in her first year at the Tree-Raising Ceremony with the best of the bunch. Lunch and a movie followed, as I paid for the hard work they were about to indulge in. Then, artifical tree assembled, the ornaments from each past year were hauled out and placed on the tree, year by year, youngest to oldest. Hand-made ornaments, long bright stringy things (no lights) and tinsel were all added. At the conclusion, I placed the angel atop the tree, my one contribution to the effort.
It only took five tries to get the angel in place, which is close to my best effort ever. And it's certainly better than 2006 when I fell off a chair and came close to braining myself on the corner of a wall. Broke the chair, lost the button on my pants and vowed to find a different way to get the angel up on top. I'll leave it your imagination how a 5-8 guy with short arms gets an angel up on top of a 7-foot tree, but I do.
An ominous sign for the future was the difficulty Angela had extricating herself from the back of the tree. My way of thinking is that we decorate the parts of the tree people INSIDE the house can see. The back NEVER gets exposed. But Angela is phobic about leaving the branches on the back unexpanded. She gets back there and makes it look as beautiful as it can be. In the past, she was small enough to drop to the floor and crawl out under the tree's lowest branches. She's a growing girl and found trying to tango around the tree, rather than underneath, was her only option. I'm betting next year she has to give in and let the back of the tree stay all folded up.
This year, from whatever vantage point, the tree looked fantastic as usual.
I often joke that the work the kids put into the tree is slave labour, but they're the ones that keep deciding to raise the tree each year. I've been more than willing to settle into my Scrooge dotage and let the time pass. But the kids, often prevented from working on their own trees at home, seem to delight in setting up their own artistic vision here, free from worry about spoiling their parents' artistic visions. I'm sure their parents would let them do it now, since they've become 'responsible' teenagers. But I get credit for letting pre-teens go wild back in the day. So they work on MY tree exclusively.
Normally, I wait until about a week before the big day before getting the tree up. But circumstances being what they were, I had a tough time finding a hole in the kids' busy social calendar. As a result, the tree's going to be up for the better part of a month and a half. It's usually late January before I find the next hole in their schedule to take it down. Well, that's wrong. I don't even put in the tree-topping effort on the way down. It's ALL the kids, all the way for that one.
Now that it's up and looking pretty, the only complaint I have about having a tree in the living room is it's looming presence in the dark. Once a year (this past Wednesday, for those of you keeping track), I stumble down the stairs in the dark for a late night snack or just to get the paper out of the door. I know the shadows of my house inside and out. But sometimes, I forget we just changed those shadows and I'll have a little conniption when I quickly glance to my left and see a large blob of shadowy blackness. The quick realization of the fright's cause never sits well.
Being afraid of shadows is NOT a good thing when you live alone.