Monday, December 5, 2011
It's butt crack time.
It was that weekend.
Tape, very small nails, electricity, butt cracks...you heard me, but I'll get to that later.
After flirting last year with the notion of a prosthetic tree, my family and I opted to go the unnatural natural route, because, even though we wouldn't be purchasing our green friend from inside the hardware store, we'd decided to buy one out in the parking lot.
We also made the collective decision to nix one of those tree farm scams thirty miles outside of town, where you're compelled to drop fifty bucks for the five-minute privilege of sawing your own pre-sheered tree, loading it in the car and choking down a complimentary, yet chunky, cup of Swiss Miss and a broken sugar cookie prior to heading back to the city in a cramped, overheated Ford Ranger.
Nope. Not this time. The kids and I were finally on the same page. We unanimously agreed that the tree farm route was synonymous to vetoing the frozen turkey from Safeway for the honor of driving to the sticks, paying three times as much and killing the poor beast ourselves.
In other words, why mess with the gobbler when you can go right for the breast.
This time around, for as long as it takes to sing "Oh, Tannenbaum" between six and seven times, Dougie Fur, in all his deadness, had traveled to his final resting place.
Anyone who tells you that wedging a tree into its little green stand is easy, is either lying or reasonably competent, because by the time that tree stood upright in a water-filled basin, the only man sweating around his wife more than I was on Saturday was Herman Cain.
My daughters like to enter the picture after most of the heavy lifting has been completed; sort of like the dentist who cruises in after the hygienist has ruptured her S5 disk trying to chip the filth off your teeth, and pokes around for thirty seconds before slapping off his rubber gloves and charging you a couple of Benjamins.
Sorting quickly through everything with which they hadn't either held a personal connection or made, the kids decorated feverishly, until no space existed to place another ornament or pillow, snow globe or angel.
Once fully decorated, the living room assumed a festive, yet slightly disturbing ambiance. A delicate nativity scene, one in which stepfather Joseph was conspicuously absent, was dwarfed by its bookend neighbors, a giant Christmas penguin and a chillingly lifelike Saint Nick doll in a baseball outfit.
A large Santa head fabricated from half a Clorox bottle stared out from the wall, giving the house the feel of a home which had bagged itself a Christmas elf and proudly displayed the trophy.
Finally, after having completed the day's garnishments, the family relaxed together in a room lit solely by little white, green, red and blue lights while Dean Martin crooned a slurry verse of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" on the old CD player.
"Hey, Dad, can you help me put up some lights in my room?" asked my sixteen year-old. I knew what she actually meant was, "Hey Dad, can you single-handedly put up lights in my room?"
"Thanks, Daddy." She knows I melt when she calls me that.
We rose from our seats, trailed by my eleven-year-old, and entered the minefield, the floor strewn with shoes and hairbands and hooded sweatshirts. I proceeded immediately to the task, as this would be the day's last demand upon my talents. Standing on a stool, my teenager handed up pieces of strapping tape, which we soon surmised would not affix the light string to her plaster walls.
I exited and returned with a hammer and nails. Quickly stringing the lights along the ceiling line, I hit a snag at the corner, as the string continually slipped out of its anchorage.
With each failure, I struggled against the urge to mutter profanities. After all, come on, it's Christmas, damnit.
After the fifth attempt, the string again slipped. "Shit!" Oops.
"Hey, Dad, I can see your butt crack," offered the teenager.
"Okay, do you want me to put down this hammer and this really small nail and this huge string of lights which is teetering on collapse and get down from this stool and pull up my pants? Huh? Is that what you want?"
"Just look the other way or something."
I pounded. I taped. I failed. I pounded some more. I swore some more. I pounded. Finally, success.
"Dad, guess what?" This time it was my younger kid who had been steadily giggling while sitting on the bed.
The older one chimed in. "We filmed you on my phone."
"You filmed me? Are you serious?"
"You filmed the whole butt crack conversation, too?"
They erupted into throes of purple-faced hysterics, high fiving and rolling on the bed.
"That's pretty funny," I deadpanned. "That's clever. Nice work. Well, I'll tell you what. You might want to leave these lights up after Christmas...because I'm never doing this again!"
I gathered up my stool and tools and stumbled out of the room.
"Don't you want to watch it?" The laughter hadn't ebbed.
"It's okay. I'll save it for when you guys are grown up and not around to decorate anymore. It'll keep me from missing you."
Actually, I'm not sure it will.