PBW: Annual Miracle

The holidays can be a stressful time, can they not? Every year around this time, in the days leading up to Christmas, I wake up to yelling. My dad becomes a little kid again, and starts putting every decoration up that we own. He asks my mom her opinion before she's had breakfast or is fully awake. She hates some of the tackier cardboard decorations he hangs, and the fact that in a few weeks he's not going to remember which ornaments came out of what boxes, and he'll be bugging her with more questions.

I fought with my dad on Friday about trimming the crooked tree he had cut from our yard, and resolved to control my temper on Saturday when it was time to bring it in the house and put it in its stand. As I sat in my room watching a DVD and idly twirling a plastic coat hanger around my big toe, he came in to summon me. I tossed the hanger aside as I leapt to his aid, but he misread the gesture and stormed out. “Fine, if that's your attitude!” In his defense, a day prior I had thrown a plastic bowl in anger, so I could understand his misinterpretation. Setting the tree up was actually quick and painless for a change, though. It was so crooked that the long process of adjusting screws in the base and taking a step back to see if it was straight would have been pointless. We just found the angles where it appeared the least crooked, and made sure those faced away from the wall.

Sunday morning, well before anyone else woke up, my dad had the tree decorated and was relaxing, watching a football game. It was a peaceful day, until the fire alarm went off. I raced to the kitchen, but my mom had merely burned a batch of cookies. I opened the skylight, and fanned the smoke detector until it stopped beeping. I reached for a cookie, but she warned me there were raisins in it, which I don't like. The batch was for one of her friends. About an hour later she came in and asked me to do something with the tree. I looked at it, and it seemed pretty much done, except for tinsel, garland, and the top. My parents and I differ on tinsel. I like to take handfuls and drape them in spots. They like to painstakingly take one strand at a time, and make sure there are no empty spots.

I said the tree looked fine, which set my mom on a rant about how she's baking cookies, and making another batch without raisins just for me, and slaving and we weren't doing anything. This led to a long and pointless argument which I won’t go into. Basically, she was stressed and needed to vent, something I understand all too well. Afterwards, I put garland up and my dad turned off the game to help me, and while I thought it looked good, she gave me a dig of, “I thought you were supposed to be an artist?”

Later that evening, after dinner, my dad asked me to cut some of the extra needles so we could fit the top decoration. He said to do it after mass, as we were getting ready for an 8 PM, but I knew I wouldn't feel like climbing up on a stepstool later that night. If I was going to get sap on me, I also wanted to do it before I took a shower and put on a suit. “I didn't say right now! We have to go somewhere! You are stubborn!” My dad gets very nervous about getting places on time, particularly church. Most of the year, he goes to church at 7 AM, as he's done for 76 years, and God willing will do so for years to come. My mom and I are the opposite, and usually go to a 5 PM on Saturday, or occasionally a 10:15 AM on Sunday. I'm not a morning person, and I like being able to sleep in on the weekend. We also seem to be consistently five minutes late, which drives my dad crazy. He stopped going to our parish when they canceled their early morning mass, and though he goes to a different church at 7 AM, the mass technically doesn’t start until 7:30. He just sits there for a half hour. So when he has to go to church with us, he stresses out about walking in after the ceremony has started. Often he's out of the car before I've turned the engine off, and we have to walk fast to catch up to him.

So, by 6:30 Sunday night I sanded the top of the tree down, shaking off and breaking one small ornament in the process. We were on time for church, and on Monday morning everyone was in a much better mood as we gathered in the living room to exchange gifts. There was no more stress, and no more yelling, and the only criticisms to be heard were, “Oh, you shouldn't have! Why did you get us so much?” or “Why did you use so much tape? You really wrapped these GOOD!” The tree didn't look so sad once all the decorations were on it and the lights were lit, and later my uncle came over and we all had a massive dinner of pasta, potatoes, chicken cutlets, and more. Dessert consisted of Italian pastries, homemade cookies, ice cream, and sherbet. We'll have leftovers for a long time. The cats enjoyed the tree as well, and while they didn't climb it they slept in close proximity to it. Chirp even “played” the piano, which I'll have to catch on video the next time he walks across the keys.

Yes, the holidays can be a stressful time, but the miracle is that after the preparations are complete, a family comes together and the festive environment somehow makes all the petty arguments meaningless and forgotten. I hope everyone had a great one. Today's Photo Blog Wednesday chronicles the journey from a sad tree to a Christmas icon



Blogger Lorna said...

Isn't it wonderful how every tree is just beautiful? And BTW, those are very handsome cats.

12/27/2006 11:25 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

Why, thank you Lorna, I'll pass your kind words along to the boys. :)

12/28/2006 12:45 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home