It’s not that I don’t like Christmas – I do. But even if you’re so into the holidays you’re runnin’ around singin’ your head off like Bing Crosby on crack, ya gotta admit, it’s a whole lotta work.
That’s why it’s good when your kids get to a certain age and you get them to do things for ya instead. A perfect example is decoratin’ the Christmas tree. Once Little Bill was about seven or eight and Rosie was about five, we kinda got a little system goin’ every year.
Of course, it’s always been my job to go out and find a tree. If the kids wanted to pick it out, that meant buyin’ one from somebody sellin’ them somewhere. If I managed to sneak out without them, it meant keepin’ that twenty bucks in my pocket, drivin’ around with Cyril until we found one we could cut down without gettin’ caught, and then squealin’ our tires as we gumbooted it out of somebody’s yard.
But once I got it in the door and strung up the lights, me and Minnie’d just sit down with our tea and watch the two of them decorate it however they wanted. Of course, sometimes they’d need some help puttin’ stuff on the higher branches, but they did most of the work. Usually that meant you’d end up with a big ball of garland on one side of the tree, or six silver bulbs all within a few inches of each other and nothin’ on the rest of the tree, but to tell ya the truth, the messier the decoratin’ turned out, the more we loved them trees.
And Rosie, even when she was really little, was always right bothered about whether everything was on it just right. I remember one year after they got all the bulbs and trinkets and stuff hung up they put three full boxes of tinsel on it. I swear to cripes ya couldn’t see any green on the tree – just strings and strings of silver tinsel on every branch.
When we she got to the end of the last box, she started cryin’ (she was only about six, I guess). What’s the matter, darlin’? we asked her. I don’t got enough to do the back, she said, snifflin’. But there’s nothin’ in the back ‘cause the tree’s in the corner, I said. Then she started bawlin’ because she wanted to decorate the whole tree, even if nobody could see it.
Anyways, for the past seven or eight years, the kids just went to it and when they were finished, me and Minnie each put our one little ornament each on the tree last. We got a set that’s Santa and Mrs. Claus that we got one of our first Christmases together, so every year we put them on last, usually up near the top.
But, just the way it is with most things, the kids are gettin’ older, and I could tell last year they weren’t as into it. We yelled upstairs three times for Little Bill to come down and decorate because I haven’t seen him without headphones in about three years. Even Rosie took a break in the middle of decoratin’ last year to talk to one of her friends on the phone.
Anyway, this year Minnie planned to do it last weekend, but when Saturday rolled around, Little Bill said he was goin’ to spend the day with his girlfriend and Rosie said her and her friends were gettin’ the bus in to the mall. They’re both teenagers now, so what can ya do?
Will we do it tomorrow instead? I said when they both left.
No, Minnie said. To hell with them, we’ll decorate it ourselves. Then she dug some Christmas CDs out of one of the boxes and started blastin’ Kenny and Dolly.
I dragged the tree in off the back step (gettin’ myself all covered in sap), screwed it into the stand and started stringin’ up the lights. That’s when she came in with two glasses of eggnog and a quart of spiced rum.
Here! she said, handin’ me the bottle. I was gonna give ya this on Christmas Eve, but I figure we could use it now!
I guess maybe her feelings were a little hurt that the kids didn’t want to decorate the tree, but if she thought drinkin’ rum would help, the least I could do was help her.
From what I remember of it, I think we had the most fun we ever had decoratin’ a Christmas tree. I remember after two drinks we took a break to dance to I’ll Be Home With Bells On. We were halfway through the bottle of rum when we realized I never wired up the star at the top, so I had to try to move all the strings of lights after a bunch of the decorations were up. The two of us were laughin’ and havin’ a great time.
At some point I remember Jim Reeves singin’ Silver Bells and Minnie grabbed me for a slow dance. I’ll spare ya the gorey details, but there was a gleam in her eye and even though it was the middle of the afternoon and the kids could come home any minute, in no time at all we had ourselves a Merry Little Christmas right there on the couch in the living room.
Holy cripes, we were like newlyweds or somethin’. Anyways, I barely had my shirt back on straight when Little Bill and his girlfriend Rita come in the door.
Hey, you got it up, he said.
What? I said.
The tree, he said, pointin’, while him and Rita went over to look at it. Yis got it up, huh?
Oh! I said. Oh yeah, yup, we did.
I said to hell with them, we’re puttin’ it up! Minnie said, and hiccupped.
Is that… Rita said, reachin’ into the tree. Is that a pair of bloomers?