Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Melanie got ran over by a reindeer

original run date December 13, 2011
Chariton Valley News Press

The Christmas season is once again running over the top of me and I have yet to put one single Christmas decoration up. It is the same dilemma every year.  Do I spend a couple hours digging out the tree and all the decorations when I could be doing some other domestic chore?
When I was a kid, the Christmas decorations didn’t come out of storage until Dec. 11. My brother’s birthday was the 10th so we didn’t put up anything until after celebrating his day. Of course, we also didn’t take anything down until after Jan. 7 either.
Bringing the family Christmas tree home was always an adventure. We didn’t go to a Christmas tree farm or lot; our Christmas tree always came out of the pasture. We usually went looking for it while we were checking cows with Dad. Some of the best trees were the ones that lost calves were found under. The definition of a good Christmas tree was always the one that only had one or two missing branches and the hole could be shoved back in the corner of the living room and hidden.
We used the same big lights and metal decorations every year. The strands of silver tinsel had to be placed one at a time. We painstakingly placed them – when Mom was watching – on each individual branch. The second she turned her back, I would hurl a handful at the tree in hopes of finishing it up faster. She caught me every time and made me take the globs of tinsel off the tree and put them on correctly.
I can honestly say the only part of putting up and taking down the Christmas tree I truly disliked was that darn tinsel. I always wanted to pitch it with the tree but we took every piece we could off before taking the tree to the pond and recycled it the next year. I guess we were green before being green was cool.
After getting married and having kids, my ideas of the family Christmas tree changed. When my kids were little, they started begging the day after Thanksgiving to put a tree up. When I was brave enough to use a real tree, I always made them hold off a couple of weeks but these days, I have embraced the ease of the artificial tree. Ours is several years old so it is not pre-lit which means every year we have to do the tangled lights tango and make sure they all work before stringing them across the tree.
Several years ago, I decided a themed tree would be fun. Instead of garland, we used one of Larry’s lariat ropes. Instead of a typical tree topper, we used a cowboy hat. I dug out the scroll saw and made wooden saddle and boot ornaments for each member of the family and wood burned names into each ornament.
My creative side must have been in overdrive because I even made a horse shaped ornament for each of the horses in the family at that time, complete with their names wood burned into the wood and stained to match their coat color.
The kids thought that was the coolest tree in the world so I was officially proclaimed mother of the year for the weeks leading up to Santa day.
Although we don’t do the whole cowboy theme anymore, I still have all those wooden decorations – all but the one for the mare my great niece has now. When Star went to their pasture, the ornament went along for their tree.
These days I begrudgingly dig out the tree and all the ornaments. With basketball season in full swing, time at home is minimal. I’m usually rushing around trying to wash clothes or do dishes that have stacked up during the many road trips to games. The thought of spending those precious hours putting up a tree, which is one more thing to clean around, makes me a Grinch. Joni usually convinces me that it would be nice to have it up for our family get together and at some point during the next couple of weeks, we will have a family tree night.
Joni and I will make Jake dig the tree and ornaments out of storage. He will grumble as he drags them up the stairs and try to convince us that we really don’t need both the big boxes of “junk” brought up. Larry will strategically position himself in the recliner. He’ll peel his eyes from the TV every once in a while and let us know if we have to many ornaments bunched in one place or if there is a spot on the tree that doesn’t have anything. He will quickly let us know when our decorating activities are blocking his view of whatever show he is watching.
The cats will hide under furniture and plan their attack on the brightly shining lights and ornaments reflecting said lights. Inevitably, the attack will take place at approximately 2 a.m. which will cause insane amounts of yelling and colorful language as everyone runs to figure out what the noise is as ornaments drop, roll and break on the hardwood floors.
I have to admit, once the tree is up and all the lights are working, it is kind of nice to turn all the lights out and stare at it for a little while. The lights and their reflections have a mesmerizing affect.
It takes me back to Christmases past when the squeals of joy rang through the house as the kids saw all the gifts Santa had left.  We had usually just gotten home from my mom and dad’s Christmas gathering. If we had attended midnight mass, it meant all three kids had squeezed in a nap so they were wide-awake. They were not going to give up and get any sleep until every package had been ripped open and each gift properly tested for the proper amount of time.
Maybe I can skip cleaning a room or two just this week in order to make time to assemble the tree. Staring down those lights and traveling to a Christmas past may be just the ticket to getting rid of the Grinch in me and find Cindy Lou.


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