Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Through a Child's Eye

Being a working mom, and a generally lazy person, I don't decorate for holidays much. I do know that as the kids get older, I will need to do more for most holidays because I am tasked with providing them glorious childhood memories and family traditions that will all come across to others as blatant neuroses when they are adults. But for now, I'm still a bit set in my non-decorating ways because of the "lazy" bit. It seems like a lot of effort to put out a whole bunch of crap (even if it is pretty or cute) just for me and Chris, and about six other close family members on Christmas Day. And the kids weren't really old enough to be concerned with it.

In previous years, we have used our annual holiday party as a reason/motivation to adorn the interior of the house with baubles and trinkets and trees. We have 50 friends over, and therefore the return on investment for that decorating time increases. This year, however, for several reasons, we have postponed our holiday party until January, thus eliminating any urgency in the decorating.

I have barely started my Christmas shopping this year, which is also odd for me, but is completely related to the same factors... my work schedule, my kids' schedule, and my inherent laziness. I will be shopping Tuesday morning before I go into work, and I will be shopping Friday when I am off for the time I will be putting in on Saturday. This has me pretty stressed out, coupled with the fact that our bank account is once again empty and we have once again, despite my efforts to the contrary, re-acquired some credit card debt.

I also cook the Christmas meal for my immediate family and, with any luck, my mom and my inlaws. I'd even love it if we threw a friend or two into the mix. Although I really enjoy the cooking, it is also stressful and can be a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, this year I have Dream Dinners, and so most of the work is done already.

All that to say that my vision of Christmas now is not really one of pure joy. But I do believe that is changing. Athena has discovered Christmas completely and wishes to immerse herself in it. Over a week ago, Chris and I were chastised from the back seat of the mom-mobile as we drove into our neighborhood:

"When are we getting our Christmas tree?"
"Soon, honey. Why?"
"Everyone in the other houses has their Christmas tree already."

Lovely. I didn't have the heart to tell her that hell would freeze over before either her father or I will be getting up on a ladder to adorn our house with little twinkly lights, which is what she was really observing. But we did assure her that a tree was forthcoming.

Chris pulled our tree out this weekend. Several years ago after a particularly bad "Christmas Light Incident" (or CLI), I purchased a pre-lit tree. I never have owned (as an adult) a real tree, as they make me physically ill, and my black thumb would render a live tree dead within about two days anyway. With Chris' allergies, it would probably kill him... so we have a fake tree.

And now we have a fake tree with lights.

And we love it.

Yeah, verily. Amen.

Fortunately for us, Athena seemed pleased as well. As Chris struggled to get the thing pieced together, Athena helpfully pointed out the "A" tag and the "B" tag. Clearly, having a fake tree is strengthening my daughter's engineering skills. We are such good parents to have a fake tree for her. Let us give ourselves a pat on the back.

Once we got the tree up, several things called us away from it. I was baking a pie, Marcus was filling his diaper with shocking ferocity, and we were making a genuine effort to clean the downstairs portion of our house in our constant effort to actually present guests with a house that does not look like the Town of Apex should come immediately and board it up. Athena, however, used this opportunity to practice her new big word: ornaments.

"I want to put the ormaments on the tree!"
"Or NA ments, dear."
"That's what I said! Or Ma ments!"
*Sigh* "We'll do it in a minute. Let's wait for... (fill in the blank with various activities) to be done and we'll all do it together."

Finally, after several episodes of Backyardigans and with Chris and Marcus upstairs doing laundry, I gave in and said that we could start and I'm sure dad and the little guy would be down soon to help. (Mind you, there are few things Chris finds more tortuous that decorating a Christmas tree).

I don't have very many fragile ornaments. I do have a few, all with some sort of sentimental significance, but for the most part, all of my ornaments are pretty sturdy. This is an example of ornament Darwinism. I only keep items with some personal value to them, and over the years, I have dropped many. Our cats have destroyed even more. So I am left with a fair number of sturdy ornaments and one or two really lucky delicate ones. I wasn't sure how my little preschooler would handle these ornaments, but I also have a pretty good detatchment from "stuff" and I'm willing to sacrifice one or two more delicate ornaments for the sake of letting her develop her self-esteem and fine-motor skills.

I'm pleased to say that my concerns were unfounded. After timidly only handing me a few ornaments to hang on the tree because she "couldn't," she found my Disney ornaments and began choosing ornaments that she had to hang herself because I clearly couldn't do it right. Soon, she was dashing from the box to the tree, placing ornaments and gently hanging them all over. This left all the delicate ones for me, with the exception of a working bell, which Athena felt had to rest low on the tree so she could ring it at every opportunity. Which she does. You would be amazed at how many opportunities present themselves. But I digress...

(The ringing! Make it stop!!!)

Suddenly, decorating the tree was fun again. I hate that Chris missed it, because he might have actually enjoyed it a little. Athena was diligent in her efforts to get all ornaments on the tree. We discovered one was broken and one had no hook, so those stayed off the tree. For hours after, she would ask about the ornament with no hook and the Minnie Mouse with a broken leg, and I would have to assure her that I will (A) find a hook for the former and (B)find the crazy glue for the latter.

Last night, she noticed that we have no star on the tree. I don't own a star for many reasons. I had a homemade angel treetopper my mother made in the late seventies or perhaps early eighties from aluminum and quilled paper, but that was either destroyed or is lost in one of the boxes in the garage. I haven't had it since before Chris and I married if I remember correctly. I have been using a bird that I've had since I was a little girl that has little wires attached to the feet and can be fastened at the top of the tree. I like it for lots of reasons, but mostly because it's something I remember from when I was young.

So when Athena asked about our star (or lack thereof), I immediately decided that she and I will find a star together... after Christmas when they are on sale, of course.

Some traditions are better than others, and waiting to buy Christmas stuff until AFTER Christmas is definitely one of the better traditions.


Sophie said...

I don't own many Christmassy-thingies, nor do I really like to decorate the house from top to bottom. The main reason is that I think most holiday decorations are a tad tacky, and people mostly use too much. That said, I did decorate the mantel with adorable stockings this year, one for each family member.

As for the tree, I am one of the rare few that refuses to buy a fake tree. But I admit, getting a real one every year is expensive. I can usually make it last well into January, and I don't mind picking up the needles as they fall. But this year, due to financial reasons and the fact that our toddler would definitely use the tree to practice her climbing skills, we decided against getting one. We did put the twinkle lights on the bushes outside and that simply amazed her.... for now at least. Next year may be a whole different story!

How's Marcus doing with the tree?

eaf said...

He has tried to pull it over three times. Once, before it was decorated, he managed to almost get it to the ground before we caught it. The two other times we stopped it at only a slight angle. All that was on Sunday when we were putting it up, and he hasn't pulled on it since. He has, however, removed ornaments, which totally ticks off his sister.

We haven't pulled out the stockings yet, but will soon, I imagine. I also agree that most of the decorations are pretty tacky. And the ones that aren't, end up looking like crap in my jumbled house anyway. :-)

Shelley said...

Sounds like a good time was had by all!!!

I just keep thinking of decorating the tree with you a few years ago, and how excited I was that it was my first time to decorate a tree. I can only imagine how much fun that was to share with Athena.