I’ve been MIA for a few days.
I went to visit friends for Thanksgiving. It was an excellent break and a joy to be in the company of some of my favorite people for no better reason than going off my diet and making each other laugh so hard pumpkin pie came out of our noses.
But that’s only half the story. I have a problem and if you can’t talk about your personal problems on the internet, then what is blogging for?
Saturday, I got back from my Thanksgiving holiday back east – Palm Springs is east of here.
Since returning though, I’ve been secreted away in my house, lost in a nightmare of glitter, fir and glass beads. I can’t seem to stop decorating for Christmas.
There is a walk-in closet in my office the size of many of the bedrooms I’ve had over the years. The little room is literally filled to the ceiling with Christmas decorations (and unsigned copies of my second book with what’s-her-name that didn’t get handed out after she sabotaged our book tour so she could go live in a trailer and not pay her taxes.) But mostly, it’s full of Christmas decorations. There are also a fair amount of Christmas baubles in the office and cleaning supply closets, in the pantry, under my bed, in the linen chest, the kitchen cabinets, the sideboard drawers and this year they’ve even begun filling up the leg well under my desk.
At the current rate, I’m going to need a second apartment soon just to accommodate my Christmas ornaments.
I always get my tree on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. My friend Dan locates the nearest Delancey Street Mission tree lot – I like that the money I’m blowing on a dead tree at least helps out people whose concerns are a little more urgent than snarled garlands. Dan and I meet for a strategy brunch, establish tree objectives for choosing a more perfect conifer than last year’s and then we launch our assault on the lot. We used to stuff the evergreen giants, stand and all, into the back of my two-seater convertible and muscle the prickly pine up four stories from the parking garage to my modest manse. Okay, there’s an elevator, but still, it’s a tree.
These days we go with the delivery option – Dan is getting older and for some reason the trees we pick keep getting larger.
This year, it rained the night before our tree lot invasion so they didn’t have as many out to choose from. With selection limited, we convinced them to open some fresh trees, still bound after their journey from the Christmas Tree Mountains, north of here somewhere. In the confusion, I identified the perfect candidate before I realized it was a Blue rather than my traditional Noble fir. It was the perfect shape and seemed a reasonable height – last year’s was literally bent against the ceiling of my apartment. In a moment of uncertainty, I agreed to the unfamiliar holiday flora.
By the time we were in the car on the way back to my apartment, I was a basket case.
It was blue, for god’s sake. And would it be dried out in a week? The branches seemed soft. Would they support my decorations? Can you return a dead tree? Could I afford a replacement? Christmas was ruined and we weren’t back from the tree lot. It wasn’t even December.
The tree was delivered in due course. I bravely soldiered on. The tree lighting and decoration took a day. The Christmas Village took one day to unpack and layout and another day to wire, light and blanket with the essential glimmer snow. In truth, what was once a village has grown. Incorporating Bedford Falls, Mistletoe Mountain, Victorian Village and Christmas in New York, I now call it Greater Christmasville. My friends call it completely out of control. Mine is catchier.
Then there’s a day of final touches as I cover the rest of the house and balcony with lights and various and sundry Christmas ornamentations. Later, I have to go out for more because somehow there’s never quite enough. And of course I need fresh poinsettias. At some point I stop decorating. Usually around the time I leave to spend Christmas at points east – that’s right I don’t actually do Christmas here. I take the tree and all but the New York part of the Greater Christmasville down before Christmas. That way the house is predecorated for New Years.
I can’t seem to stop.
The worse the year I’ve had, the more tenacious and fanatical my decorating. This year, I became so obsessed with what I perceived as a possible shortage in the glimmer snow market that I actually became short of breath and had to lie down. This was weeks before Thanksgiving. Of course the day the holiday Kleenex Christmas ovals came out, I returned from the grocery store with bags full of flocked foil tissue boxes and no actual food.
It’s as though somewhere deep down, left over from childhood, I believe that Christmas will fix it. I’m not even clear on what “it” is. Still, I pursue my decorating with a superstitious fervor driven by a belief that if I get everything just right, the tumblers will drop and all my dreams will at last come true. I’ve spent my life waiting for my Susan Boyle moment and each year I pin my hopes on Christmas.
My favorite Christmas carol is the tearjerker Just in Time for Christmas. Bathed in the manmade holiday glow of Greater Christmasville, I belt out the holiday ballad alone but hopeful.
Now, I’m not a primitive. I’m writing this essay with a certain amount of intellectual detachment observing my behavior with an anthropological cool. Yet, even knowing what I’m doing doesn’t diminish my need to do it. I guess to some degree it’s Santa Claus based. Early on, I imprinted on the persistent Christmas notion that if I wish hard enough that this year I really will get what I asked Santa for at the mall, in letters and each night on my knees. And what if I do get it all this year? Would I stop decorating or just hope for more?
I’m not sure if there’s a cure for my Christmas mania or if I’d even be interested.
On the plus side, I love doing it. Decorating keeps the holiday blues at bay. The house looks amazing. Whether or not my Christmas spirit is sincere or self-induced, all the fuss lifts my spirits and stops me worrying about the many, many thing I could be wasting my time worrying about. Two things I know for sure. One, worry has never solved a single one of my problems. And two, sometimes if I pretend that everything’s great, I forget that I’m pretending.
Now, excuse me, I’ve got to go make the perfect Christmas cookies.