If you’re emotional about tradition and decorating for the holidays, kids, thank your lucky stars for Mom and all she means to the family and your household. ‘Cause if something happens to Mom…all bets are off.
Mindy came to me the other day and put the hammer down.
“Hey, you’re going to have to help me get the house ready for Christmas,” she said. “I can’t do this by myself this year.”
Understood, and with just reason. Four years ago she had a partial replacement of her right knee, but that was in the month of May. She had all summer to recuperate. Next Monday she’s having her left knee done after sustaining a hiking accident in Yosemite National Park last summer. Exact same scenario as her other surgery – a torn meniscus that led to additional stress and wear on the joint. So, out with the old…and in with the new, Christmas notwithstanding.
Of course the recovery comes at a bad time, the time when the kids come home with their significant others, and now in our case…the “Bumpus” hounds, if you’re familiar with the movie A Christmas Story, starring Darren McGavin. We’re now a dog family.
And for the sake of decorating for this Christmas…I am the Darren McGavin of the Fulks household with other priorities besides strands of lights, garland, mantel treatments…and THE TREE!
For years it was my job to go to Fulton’s in Troy and cut a live tree, drag it home, shake it down, put it in a stand, and get it properly positioned in the living room in front of the big window. When Bob Shefbuch, my neighbor across the street was living, Mindy’s final selling point each year on so much emphasis with a tree was, “Bob’s alone now and he’ll enjoy looking over and seeing our tree.” I actually asked him once, while he was working on his daily case of Busch Light (in the holiday cans), if he ever even noticed.
“Nope,” Bob answered. “Got all I can handle right here.” Burp!
But to the present. “I don’t think we should bother with a live tree this year,” she said. “It’s just too much and I know you won’t want to clean up the needles and the mess after Christmas, right? Why don’t we use one of the ‘craft’ trees we put by the fireplace. It’s already got lights, it’s small, and I think the kids will understand.”
I was all in, of course, for all the reasons outlined. And besides, the kids are going to understand first and foremost that if you get your leg cut off and a new joint plugged in…you might also cut a few corners for Christmas.
“What about outside lights?” she asked.
“I suggest we take advantage of nature,” I said, joking, of course. “The star of the east. Maybe we’ll get lucky with some aurora borealis.”
“No, I’d at least like some icicle lights on the back porch,” she said. “It’s simple and it looks nice.”
I brought down a couple of rubber tubs of bells, and wreaths, and hanging ‘this-and-thats’ from the attic (you know, you’ve got ’em), and to her credit and determination, Mindy did her traditional look for the mantel and some small touches above the windows in the kitchen. Exhausted, she finally plopped in a recliner and elevated her bum leg.
“I can’t do any more,” she said. “I don’t even like the way the mantel looks. Why does this have to happen at Christmas? And what are the kids going to think? It’s never looked this way.”
“It’s doesn’t matter,” I said. “The house is warm, it’s dry, and no one’s going to go hungry (or thirsty). It’ll be fine.”
“Ah, you always say that crap,” she fumed, shaking her head.
“Look, channel your efforts on being comfortable and doing your rehab,” I offered. “Think of the money we’ll save, the work we’ll save, and trust it…you’re going to thank me when January gets here and it’s time to put everything away.” I was becoming more like Darren McGavin by the moment. In fact, I caught myself thinking of the hounds in the movie…and of take-out Chinese for Christmas dinner.
She was quiet for several moments as she considered my logic.
“I know. You’re right. The kids will be fine. After all, it’s just for this year,” she accepted. But just then she glanced at the fake white pine, Charlie Brown-substitute-tree by the big window in the front room, standing on an old Winchester cartridge box, with a dozen lights (built in) and a tired looking red bow on the top.
“God, that’s awful,” she moaned. “We’ve got to do better than that.”
She got on her feet and hobbled away, shaking her head, her mind no doubt awash with Better Homes and Gardens. “You’re certainly no David Fair,” she admonished.
Men…and decorating for the holidays.