Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Lights

by Tammy Bundy

When it comes to Christmas, my husband and I are in a mixed marriage.
Now, the difference is not in the way we celebrate Christmas. The difference is in the way we decorate Christmas.
And as with everything, this difference is rooted in our childhoods.
During our first Christmas, shortly after my husband and I were engaged, we went to visit my future in-laws. As we pulled up to their house, I stared into the darkness and asked, “When are your folks decorating for Christmas?”
“What do you mean?” my husband blankly asked. “They already did decorate.”
Upon closer inspection---much closer inspection---I noticed there was, indeed, a single lit candle in each of their windows. And a green wreath on their front door.
My husband did not have to wait long to understand my confusion as to his parent’s understated decorated house. He only had to wait until our first Christmas visit with my parents.
Upon turning the corner that leads to their house, my husband-to-be had to shield his eyes from the glare. There were lights in the trees, lights on the bushes, lights on the rooftop. You name it and if it did not move, my parents hung a string of lights on it. My fiancee commented that he had seen less lights on the Vegas strip.
And so you can easily see that we came by our mixed marriage quite naturally.
But we have tried to deal with this Christmas quandary from the beginning of our marriage. We compromised. I decorated the inside of the house however I wanted and he decorated the outside however he pleased.
For the first few years my spouse went all out. He hung a wreath on the front door. Of course, I must mention there was a flood light shining on this wreath for effect.
This worked up until the kids were born and developed their own opinions---which was approximately fifteen minutes after birth.
“Our house looks boring.” They would complain. “ Santa won’t even be able to find it. Please can we put up some lights?”
And so, little by little---one year at a time---I have been sneaking in a few decorative touches to our outside Yule tide decorations. One year it was simply a few red bows for the bushes. The next year, it was a few white lights for the bushes. My husband, of course, did notice the additions, but, wise man that he is, he knew he was outnumbered, and reluctantly gave in to this mutiny. But still the kids wanted more.
“Everyone else has those pretty icicle lights,” They noticed this year. “Can we please get those?”
And so it was that I could recently be found precariously perched on a ladder next to a tree in our front yard, trying to hang a tangled tier of icicle lights. One hour later I had learned something important. You can’t hang icicle lights from a tree.
And so, after another half-hour of untangling them from the tree, I decided to try to hang them from my house. I soon discovered another important point to remember. I have a two-story house, but only a one-story ladder. So, ever the diligent little elf, I thought I would simply drape the icicle lights across the middle of the house for a dramatic effect. Once more, I spent the better part of an hour attempting this. And after almost three hours total decorating time, it was finally done.
And as I stood in the yard, staring at my accomplishment, panting and yet proud of my new strand of lights---my youngest son came out to inspect my work. After looking quizzically at the new display for a minute, he honestly responded, “It looks like our house has a mustache.”
The worst part was---he was right. The windows were the eyes---the front door was an open mouth---and my attempt at icicle lights had created an elaborate handlebar mustache for the Bundy abode.
I ripped the icicle lights down and put a wreath on the door. That took about five minutes.
Now, where do I find those darn candles?

From The Book of Mom: What Parents Know by Heart published by St. Anthony Messenger Press

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