With Thanksgiving well and truly observed, I’m turning my attention to Christmas.
Good thing, too. Christmas Eve isn’t much more than three weeks away. While Nancy has spent a lot of weekend and evening time shopping for the special people in our lives, but we really haven’t started to decorate. Thanksgiving this year was about as late in the month as it can be, so the Christmas prep is terribly compressed.
I grew nervous when I realized just how near Christmas is. In a holiday story called “A Cup of Christmas Tea,’’ Minnesota writer Tom Hegg says, “The log was in the fireplace, all spiced and set to burn. At last the yearly Christmas race was in the clubhouse turn.’’ Well, the race has only just begun at my house, but it feels like we’re in the clubhouse turn. We have a long way to go and a short time to get there. Yes, I know, that Jerry Reed song from “Smokey and the Bandit’’ is a decidedly non-Christmas tune. It captures the pressure of the late start, though.
This weekend is the time when my friends and neighbors get their payback for my insistence — some might call it stubbornness — that Thanksgiving be fully celebrated before we move on to the next holiday. Some people, call them the early Christmasers, take advantage of the warm days of early fall to hang their outdoor lights and set up lawn displays. I scoff at that. Their payback comes as they sit inside and watch me out in the cold wind and snow, trying to string outdoor lights in thick mittens. In those moments, I envy those early Christmasers. Once I’ve gotten my outdoor decorations in place, though, I’m filled with a sense of accomplishment, as if I’ve survived a three-day blizzard in an abandoned shack somewhere in northwest Montana.
I have never seen a survey that shows how many Americans decorate early and how many wait until after Thanksgiving. Casual observation of homes as I drive around town suggests I’m in the minority. Some houses have their outdoor lights in place so early in the fall I wonder if they simply never take them down. But waiting through Thanksgiving gives me an important excuse when the family suggests a shopping trip on Black Friday. “Yeah, no, I should spend some time getting the strings of lights out of the storage room and making sure they work.’’ Usually that means I tune in the football game after people leave the house.
For most of our marriage, we lived in a two-story house with a curved porch. Over the years, we (and by we I mean my spouse, Nancy) figured out the best places in each room for wax angels and ceramic Santas and stars and elves and manger scenes and displays of stuffed holiday bears. We put Santa and Mrs. Claus on the porch swing, wrapped red ribbon around the pillars and affixed big bows to the railing. In the early years, we bought a natural tree each Christmas season.
As we grew older, we tired of our trees drying out. We purchased a permanent tree. The hat of the St. Nicholas atop the tree brushed the ceiling. Life was grand.
Four years ago we sold the big house and moved to a townhome. The nine-foot ceiling in our old living room became an eight-foot ceiling. To make things fit, I hack-sawed a foot off the top of the tree. This fall we moved again. It looks like I have 10 or 12 feet of space for a tree. I should have saved that piece I lopped off the top. I’ll make it work. Happily, that will be an inside job.
I have a feeling things will turn out just fine. They did in the Tom Hegg story I mentioned earlier. One review summed it up: “Reluctantly, in the midst of the Christmas rush, a man decides to go visit his ailing great aunt, but while there, peace and love and wonderful Christmas spirit surround the two of them as they share a cup of Christmas tea.’’
That sounds like all anybody could want for Christmas.