Fa la…la LA something or other

Oh, Lord…I have to buy a Christmas tree.  Yes, yes…I’ve been aware of this fact for weeks, but somehow I thought there was still time.  Why I would think this in spite of the relentless stream of hints pouring out of the TV and internet is beyond me, but there you have it: it’s the 9th of December and the Twelve Days start on the 13th.  There are two whole plastic crates full of Christmas stuff I’ve yet to empty…  I am terribly behind on my preparations for celebrating the holidays.

I don’t know if I’m ready for the whole fa-la-la and ho-ho-ho and whoop-dee-do!  Yes, I have all the trimmings for the whole season handy, but I don’t yet know if I have the oomph to get into the whole darned thing.  The other day I stood on the balcony (taking pictures of the river through the trees) and I heard one of the neighbors singing “Deck the Halls” to herself as she walked into her townhouse.  My degree of readiness was nil…I nearly hurled over the railing.

When, when, when did this creep up on us that I am not in the least bit imbued with Christmas spirit?  Am I at all imbued with Christmas spirit?  My shopping is done, the decorating is partially done…why, oh, why am I knee-jerking on the 9th of the month???  I should at least be busily baking cookies now…except I killed the hand-mixer.  Maybe it’s the hand-mixer’s fault?

This was all easier when the kids were younger.  Sure, I ended up cleaning glitter from ornaments they’d made on a rainy Saturday afternoon long after Christmas was over (usually two…three…five years?,) but I was all over this season like hairs on a gorilla.  This year my Christmas muscle seems to be saggy…

J is happy and enthused, but not over-the-moon happy or enthused.  His degree of oomph about Christmas is about 70% and, believe me, this is unusual for him.  I don’t think there’s anything WRONG with him, I think he’s just…gulp…growing up!  I am not expecting cartwheels or handsprings, but a little more enthusiasm would be helpful.  J usually imbues the whole family with the desire to carol and open presents, and right now he’s just not walking around spreading a thick layer of Christmas cheer.  The most he’s done is get totally hooked on the Brian Setzer Orchestra Xmas CD, something that keeps waking his brother up at the most inopportune times…

We are hoping that Christmas tree shopping will snap him out of his seemingly adolescent jadedness.  If HE doesn’t snap out of it, we’ll basically be kaput on Christmas.  Quite frankly, I will worry if I don’t see the little celebratory dance J usually performs after he chooses our Christmas tree.

The dance!  Yes, you know…that little dance thing that football players do when the score a touchdown.  J does that.  His tree-choosing process is drawn-out enough that it deserves some sort of jig at the end.  It takes him less time and smoke than when they choose a new Pope, but it takes him long enough to make us prepare for a prolonged wait in cold weather.    Our son has been a tree-hugger for a long time, and I don’t mean in the environmental conservation sense; J actually HUGS trees.

We used to leave the house very early so that he could stop and socialize with his tree friends on the way.  Some trees were not simpatico; for some reason J would huffily turn away and speed up, as if he was trying to indicate clearly that he wasn’t interested in being acquainted with them.  Others prompted a “run across a field of daisies and embrace” moment.  A three block walk took up to half an hour in these circumstances…not fun on a cold, rainy day.

When we shop for a Christmas tree, we know it’s going to take a while.  J walks in like Queen Elizabeth…gloves held with one arm, Slinky going up and down in the other.  He slowly makes his way down the rows of trees that have been lined up for his inspection and…this is the kicker…he then stops, leans in and appears to carry on a brief conversation with them.  We don’t know what he’s whispering, but it either results in smiles or giggles, or in a sniff and quick exit from the area.  It’s not difficult to imagine that General Patton might have done his Christmas tree shopping in the same fashion…

Once the choice is made, the little dance takes place and we bring the shrub home to decorate.  Over the past twelve Christmases we’ve amassed a collection of home-made kitschiness and not-intended for Christmas baubles that are the envy of no one.  Out the will come to rest on the branches and entertain us with the anecdotes attached to each of them and, right before bedtime, J will light the tree and darken the rest of the room, quietly spending a moment soaking in the memory.

What does he remember from early childhood?  I know he remembers a dog nipped at him and so he dislikes dogs.  I know the last time he saw his biological father (six years ago,) he seemed to recognize this person in the same vague manner one does when running into an old, old acquaintance at the mall.  I know he remembers the Twelve Days board, that the cats are scared of the hairy Bumble figurine from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, that he loves Snoopy’s looming presence in his room as the little motor whirs away in a corner…  We know he remembers that we will get the kitchen tremendously dirty making cookies and that they will be positively inedible.  We know he knows there are things he should be trying to find hidden in closets, under beds, in cupboards…  What will he archive from this year?  What am I going to give HIM to remember this by?

OK…I’m ready now. I am ready to suck up the pine needles and glitter from the shag rug with the all-too-weak vacuum cleaner.  I am ready to make too many cookies that look nothing like the cookie cutters we’re using.  I am ready, furthermore, to stand in front of the tree and channel an older person saying “I remember when trees actually SMELLED like trees…”  Yeah…let’s do this…

Fa-la-la-LA, ho-ho-ho, jingle bells and O Tannenbaum…bring it on…

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