Friday, November 28, 2008

Me Vs. The Tree

Every year I say to myself I am not putting up the Christmas tree. Why? Because Christmas trees and perfectionism do not mix. Have you any idea how long it takes me to put the tree together, bend each limb to perfection and then hang each ornament on the branches perfectly?

A very long time.

You could say – lower your standards, Liz. Or, wait until you have kids. To that I say – exactly. Until I have children who will hang everything on the lower fourth of the tree because that as high as they can reach and who will hang things like cardboard picture frames bordered by macaroni noodles – until then I will cherish the final years of having an absolutely perfect and symmetrically decorated tree.

I need something perfect in my life. Trust me.

Where oh where is husband during this? He knows better. Besides I have never granted him permission to hang an ornament on the tree. That is my habitat – get out. So Chris went out to drink beer.

Meanwhile, I decided to decorate the entire house. This includes the mantle, the wreaths and the little red and green crap we women put everywhere else. Took me nearly 30 minutes to get everything to hang on the wreath. The only catch is that we cannot open the door until December 26th. Or else everything will fall right off.

Last but not least I haul the Christmas tree upstairs. This involves going into the boiler room, moving a box as tall as me but twice as wide and hoping that the piece of tape that has been on the box since 1973 still holds but it never does. In a moment of let-me-out-of-this-box NOW anxiety, pent up since last December 26th, the box explodes and scatters two dozen branches from the boiler room up the stairs into the living room.

You might ask – why do you have a tree circa 1973 when you were born in 1975? Well, this, my friends, is no ordinary tree. This is vintage Waterstraat Christmas tree. A hand-me-down. It was bequeathed to us about 6 years ago. How do I know it is a true Waterstraat collectible?


Who else would use a chopstick to hold together the entire top portion of the tree? Who?

This has Chris’ mom written all over it.

If you have never put up a Christmas tree, you may not know that perhaps the most complicated task is not bending 100 prickly itchy branches into place. Nor putting a web of messy lights on the tree. Nor completing the entire task without poking your eye out. No, the most complicated task is where you begin – the stand.

Assembling the stand should be easy. Four legs, four screws, one giant bowl like metal thing. A hole for the tree. Easy – right? Except if your stand does not have a hole for the tree. I think about this for a moment – where did the hole go? It’s like a Christmas tree loophole – no hole for the hole. And then I remember the old stand broke so we bought a new one. Last year I recall that I somehow rigged up a screwdriver to hold the tree upright. You see, it would fit in the stand but there was nothing keeping it from falling out from between the four screws (at this point my Jewish friends are totally lost while my Christian friends are like sister we feel your pain while the Pagans are just sitting there like – stupid tree). So the screw driver was rammed into the carpet as an anchor and then propped against the tree stand.

This year I couldn’t find the screw driver. So I needed a Plan B. Now, I’m not an engineer but I am crafty and a master of the Jimmy Rig. Immediately I start looking for something to rig the tree up with from the kitchen. A nutcracker, a peeler, a knife sharpener. All good options but none did the trick.

Frustration hits. There is a possibility that I have completely disheveled the living room for no good reason and there might not be a Christmas tree. I’m a little miffed. I don’t like messes and I hate leaving things half done. Plus what do I do with an unusable Christmas tree?

Hmmmph.

Finally I rig a way for the tree to stand invovling a water bottle and a dozen old towels (in theory it worked). Then as soon as I turn my back the entire thing tumbles.

That was it.

I throw it all back in the box, including the stand and leave it there. This is my silent protest. I will ignore the Christmas tree. This year there will be no Christmas tree. Christmas will go on without the stupid tree.

There.

I busy myself with cutting cucumbers when Chris walks in the door looking like maybe he made good friends with a few beers. He then walks over to the Christmas tree.

We are getting a new tree, I say.

What’s wrong with the tree? Here’s the thing about Chris – if it involves bikes, he can get a new one every year. If it involves anything else – he will use it until it dies. This is the man I once found standing in the bedroom with a pair of boxer shorts that had ripped in half like chaps. Like an elastic band with two cloth flaps, one in front, one in back. According to him, the shorts had ripped while getting dressed at the gym and for whatever reason he put them back on to wear home. That I can understand. Why they went straight into the laundry basket rather than the garbage can – that I do not understand.

*Chaps*

Knowing he has freakish endurance for using things until they literally fall off of his body, I knew I had to come up with a good excuse or else I would never get a new tree.

The tree does not fit in the stand.

He pulls the stand out of the box and says,
I’ll get it to fit in the stand.

Great. He went to the party and came back dressed as MacGuyver. He takes on this project with that chipper sound in his voice that signals – I will find a solution to this man challenge! Note that the voice is never that chipper for a mundane task like cleaning or what not. Enter a drill, hammer or possible trip to the Home Depot, oh he’s in. He’s totally in.

Whatever, I look at him with a good luck, go fix the stand. Do whatever you want because I’ve already made up my mind we are buying a new Christmas tree, one that was made in this millennium, one that was not made with lead paint, one that is not a fire hazard, one that does not contain those plastics you shouldn’t drink from. We are getting a healthy tree.
Meanwhile, I realize his face is lit up from the beer like the garland on my mantle.

This should be good.

A few minutes later I hear the sound of metal to metal. There is probably some rule against using tools when drunk but I’m also a big fan of natural consequences. Let him figure that rule out. Maybe not - the next thing I hear is drill on metal. I should probably check in on him down there. But no – he is, as Jenni Keil would say – in his man cave, a little shiny and using a power drill. Play on, man. Play on.

A few minutes later Chris walks upstairs with the stand in hand and promptly puts in the Christmas tree.

Done.

I’m slightly impressed but more ashamed. Here I am totally sober and could not find a way to prop up the tree yet he figures it out quickly with a power tool nonetheless. All while under the influence. This is why I sometimes wish I was born a man. How do they know how to do these things? This is useful. Power tools while drunk – sign me up. Looking pretty and possessing the power to always be right and always getting the last word – totally overrated and not very useful. Give me a Y chromosome, a beer and a drill. Now we’re talking.

There it was – the tree in the stand begging to be put together. Sigh. Now I really have to commit to doing it. I begin. First task involves matching colors on the branches to colors on the stand. Foolproof plan unless you are the fool that owns a Christmas tree from 1973. No colors any more! For all I know I have assembled the tree upside down.

Tree assembled and next – the lights. As I got to plug them in hoping it will be accompanied by the sound of angelic choir voices I see and hear….nothing.

NOTHING.
It’s dark.

SON OF A……………!

Chris asks what is wrong. THE F-IN LIGHTS DON’T WORK! He looks at me like pipe down woman, it is just a Christmas tree. Yes, yes I know. But at this rate it will be undecorated until next Christmas. I just want this project to be done. And I am finishing it tonight.

In a bizarre exchange of chores we would both rather not do, I agree to give BossBoss a bath if he agrees to go buy a new strand of lights. Done deal. He returns and finally I can decorate the tree.

It takes time. A lot of time. Each little ornament gets hung carefully in a well thought out location on the tree. Look closely at my tree. Closer. What do you see.


That’s right, I only permit snowmen/snow things to be hung on my tree. You should listen to me on this. You see, the safe holiday gift is giing someone an ornament. The problem, though, is that if your tree doesn’t have a theme you will end up with a bunch of ornaments you would be too embarrassed to hang on the back of your tree. Like a white porcelain bear with shamrocks all over it thinking to yourself….

But I’m not Irish?

Enter the snowman theme – safe, nondenominational nonholiday ornament that everyone knows about and everyone can celebrate. The winter season man made of snow. I win and have a whole tree filled with ornaments that can be hung on the front side of the tree.

So, there it is. The holiday tree. I would call it a Christmas tree but it’s not even December yet and considering it took me half a day to put it up I might just keep it around all year.

(and if you look close enough you might just see the chopstick in there that's holding up the top part of the tree...)

11 comments:

Roo said...

Too funny! But what about all of the ornaments the kids made you when you were teaching? I have some really ugly hand painted ones on the back of my tree!

TriGirl Kate O said...

It looks perfect!

Sara said...

I think it is time for a tree upgrade! My husband would never allow such a tiny tree in our SMALL New York apartment. I think he judges his manhood by how large of a tree he can physically carry up the stairs.....

Yeah, I don't get it either but it helps me get the tree up every year so I can't really complain.

Iron Maiden said...

My husband told me that I needed to read your blog because your description of your husband seems a lot like mine (who's name is incidentally Chris, as well). I relate to the bike a year thing and I think I laughed reading all the way through it. Especially about the "chaps" boxer shorts, but I call Chris' underwear like those his "woobie" underwear.

TRI-ROB said...

Personally, I've always enjoyed looking pretty and being right WHILE drunk and using power-tools.

I'm just sayin.

Breathe...

Train-This said...

Now that's funny SH**

BreeWee said...

You have to email me your address... I got the snowman for your tree... (wait, I have to make sure it is still at the store) but if it is, your tree needs it...

Flatman said...

GO CHRIS!!!! ;)

Jennifer Harrison said...

Ok, seriously Elizabeth, only Snowmen? You need me to come over and mess that tree up - ours is huge and has a MESS of ornaments...I must be the only NON-type A christmas triathlete....I am not picky at all..then, again...I am not picky about anything with the holidays.

Alicia Parr said...

I went the "wait until I have kids" route to Christmas Tree usage. Guess what that means? Yup. Time to pull the tree out of the attic.

Drew said...

3 words that will make your life so much simpler: pre-lit tree. And go easy on the boxer chaps, I think I've got a few pairs of those myself.