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Posts Tagged ‘decorations’

She was a pro at just sneaking it into the conversation.  We would all be sitting at the dinner table, our forks raised mid-bite, and she would just slide it in.

“Would you be able to dig the decorations out of the cubby hole for me tomorrow?” she would ask, simultaneously dishing out more potatoes and smiling lovingly at my dad from across the table.

And there it was, with those few words uttered, Christmas had officially begun.

When I was a kid the surest sign that Christmas was coming was not the sound of Christmas music playing on the radio or the smell of cookies baking in the oven, no, not for me.  For me, Christmas did not officially begin until the decorations came out from under the stairs.  It’s funny that I have maybe a handful of memories of actually putting up the decorations, trimming the tree, all of that, but at least twice as many of the process it took to get those decorations out from the spot they called home for the remaining 11 months of the year.

The “cubby hole” at our house was just that – a cupboard/hole under our stairs that at its opening was large enough for a full size door but which, at its depth, was barely tall enough for a 10 year old, let alone a grown man, to crawl on hands and knees. My father had ingeniously turned the largest section of it into a walk-in closet / mudroom and by hammering a few nails into the exposed 2 x 4s, thereby creating an effective little coat room.

The remainder of the space was used for storage, and as the place my brother would threaten to lock me when my parents were out and he was “babysitting.”

But I digress.

On the appointed day my dad would crawl deep into the depths of the cubby hole in search of the Christmas tree and all of its assorted accessories. Now this was a time before lovely Rubbermaid stacking containers and handy cloth sacks for holding artificial trees so our decorations spent 11 months of the year stuffed in aging cardboard boxes. Boxes that would inevitably disintegrate at the first touch, causing ornaments and knick-knacks to spill, scattering into the farthest reaches of the darkness.

And let me say, it’s not like there were one or two boxes.  Oh no, there were always at least a dozen.  They were varying sizes, varying shapes and notoriously poorly marked so although my mother could tell by merely glancing at them that the toilet paper box was definitely Christmas but the photocopy box was, of course, Halloween, my father had absolutely no idea.  So he would push all of them to the door of the cubby hole and yell up to my mother to please come down and tell him which ones she needed.

It was at this point in the process where he usually ended up hitting his head.  It always happened; if it was a good year it happened only once.  Then there would come the inevitable string of profanities, laced together with such mastery that my brother and I would sit wide-eyed on the stairs and cover our mouths in shock.  We were normally told to “stay out of the way” during this whole ordeal but, through the years, we discovered just how far away we needed to be to make ourselves scarce, while still being close enough to partake of the show.

I, of course, was not there when my parents got married but I do believe that the yearly unearthing of the Christmas decorations must have been present in their wedding vows.  I promise to love, honour and once a year I will crawl down into a dark, dusty, dingy crawl space and dig out 17 boxes of holiday decorations.  It must have been there because he did it…every single year.  And even though he would bang his head, and even though he would swear, and even though I’m sure he hated every minute of it, he did it.

Because she asked him to.

I am all grown up now (apparently) and I have my own house, and my own 17 boxes of Christmas decorations.  The ornament didn’t fall far from the Christmas tree on that one.  And, just like they did in all of my childhood memories, my decorations live in a closet under my stairs.  And as I look at the calendar I see that it’s almost that time again, almost time for me to make my foray into that dark closet and dig out my boxes.

And when I do, I will probably hit my head, and I will probably scream like a little girl when a spider scurries across the floor in front of me, but deep inside I will be enjoying it.  Because it makes me think of my childhood, and my parents, and all the magic and wonder that lives under the stairs.

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Is it just me or has the retail industry gotten a little ahead of themselves lately? I mean obviously they need to have certain items in stores ahead of when they are actually needed but seriously, have the people who look after these things decided that the calendar is now completely irrelevant?

This year the Halloween costumes were in my local store at pretty much the same time as the school supplies. The first time I saw them I panicked – is it that time already? Man, I better pick up the kids’ costumes before they all get picked over! Picked over? It was barely September for goodness sakes!

I used to pat myself on the back whenever I was (surprisingly) organized enough to have clothes purchased and ready in advance of the changing seasons. Now, however, it seems that I’m now expected to be two seasons ahead and have the super hero ability to be able to predict what clothing and shoe sizes my kids are going to be six months from now.

Looking for a winter jacket in November? Too late, all that’s left in stores are extra small or extra large – and both in colours that the kids won’t go anywhere near. Forget that it’s still Fall outside – don’t even bother asking the cashier if they have any more sizes in the back, he’ll look at you as if you just asked him to sew you one from scratch. Apparently the time to buy winter clothes is four months before you’re actually going to wear them.

Looking for a bathing suit in June? Nope, they’re pretty much all gone by mid-April. I live north of the Great Lakes – no one here is wearing a bathing suit in April!!

My local home decor store was fully decked out for Christmas more than two weeks ago; complete with four themed trees and miles and miles of little twinkly lights. What ever happened to waiting until December? Or forget December, what ever happened to waiting until Halloween was done?

I had to send my husband to Costco at the beginning of September to buy new Christmas garlands because I knew they would be gone in less than a week. When he arrived back from his errand he informed me he got the last two. For real. Then I had to find room to stash them in the garage for two and a half months, waiting for it to actually be Christmas time.

I get stressed every time I go shopping now, feeling horribly behind before I even get started. What an awful mother I must be if I left buying winter boots until October. What ever made me think that was an okay thing to do?

It’s November and I haven’t finished my Christmas shopping yet? I’ll never get it done in time now! Is it any wonder that I’m usually tired of the holidays long before they even arrive? Am I the only one who thinks it’s wrong to drink eggnog while wearing shorts and a tank top? How special are the decorations, music and cookies, when you have them for two months instead of just a couple of weeks? By the time December 25 finally rolls around I just want to pack it all away and be rid of the whole thing.

And when I finally get the last box of decorations packed away I will (mistakenly) think I can relax for a month or so.

That is until my next trip to the store reveals that the Easter baskets, patio sets and flip flops are now on clearance.

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Now that I am the person solely responsible for Christmas in my house, there are a lot of things I have grown to dislike about the holidays.  I could do without baking dozens of different kinds of Christmas cookies, wasting hours of my life writing and mailing Christmas cards to people I don’t even speak to the rest of the year, or sitting through hour after hour of sappy Christmas tv programming.

I’m happy with a pre-stuffed, frozen turkey that just has to be thrown in the oven.  I have grown to love pre-stick gift tags and pre-fab bows that can just be hunked on top of every gift.  I am gradually picking easy over difficult, fast over slow and pre-done over home-made.

But, the one thing I can’t cut corners on is decorations, specifically lights.  When it comes to lights, the more the merrier and the twinklier the better.  Everything (including me) looks better when bathed in the gentle glow of Christmas lights.

When I was a little girl, one of the biggest dates on the Christmas calendar was the day we put up the lights on the outside of the house.  The weeks leading up to the date were spent with my mother deciding on a “theme” for the outside decorations and then figuring out what colour the lights needed to be to go with that theme.  Then, on the morning of the big day, my brother and I would be tasked with untangling the light strings and ensuring they were linked together correctly so that my dad didn’t end up with 10 extra light sockets hanging off the end of the roof or 5 sockets short of going around the second garage door.

Then the colour pattern would be finalized and for the rest of the morning I would be repeating the pattern over and over in my head to ensure I didn’t fail this most important task.  If it was supposed to be two red, two green, two blue, two yellow, then that’s how it better be.  Switching the two blue and the two yellow had serious implications and would require starting from scratch.  I always offered to be the person who screwed the light bulbs into the sockets.  I liked having the responsibility of ensuring it was done right.  Perfect for someone with a burgeoning type-A personality.  I liked the control, and I also loved the sound.

Even today, when I close my eyes I can still hear the sound the bulbs make when they rub together.  I used to take all of the bulbs out of their packages and put them in individual piles by colour and I would run my fingers through them, feeling the smooth glass slide through my fingers, and hear the sound of them gently clinking together.  Pure bliss.  If you ever asked me what my favourite sound is, that would be it.

My family was a well-oiled machine when it came to Christmas lights.  I would be screwing the bulbs into the light strands while my dad was out on the ladder putting the strings up.  My mom was usually tasked with holding the bottom of my ladder to make sure the lighting party didn’t end with a trip in an ambulance.  My brother would go back and forth between the inside and the outside yelling “I need a strand with two blue at the male end.”  Yep, that’s how we referred to the strands.  If there needed to be a strand starting with two blue lights at the plug-out end, it would be the “male end” and the plug-in end would therefore be the “female end.”  Yes, my education on the birds and the bees started with strands of Christmas lights.

No one could get out of Christmas light day.  I even remember one year when my dad’s work Christmas party fell on the night before “light day” and he was still out there, bright and early, even though he looked slightly worse for wear.  Every time he bent over to pick up the strand of lights he would grown and grab his head but he pushed through because my mother would be standing beside him, giving him that “look.”  Young as I was, I knew even then that you don’t mess with the “look.”

Those Saturday mornings spent with my family are some of my most cherished Christmas memories and I have to say, I’m slightly bitter about the recent change to energy-efficient LED Christmas lights.  No more running my fingers through piles of beautiful glass bulbs separated by colour and no more changing lighting “themes” on a yearly basis.  Now you buy a string of lights and those are the colours you’re stuck with, year in and year out.  I’m all for saving the environment but I’m not so happy that going green means having red lights for the next 10 years.

And so I’ve tried to compensate by adding more and more and more lights.  My husband is at the point now that when he sees me standing on the sidewalk, staring at the house, he just rolls his eyes and walks quickly into the house, in fear that what ever lighting scheme I’m imagining for next year involves him, an 8 foot ladder and 300 more Christmas lights.

I wish I could reassure him but his worst fears will probably come true.  You can never have too many Christmas lights.

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