The Christmas tree in our house is many things, but ‘lit up like a Christmas tree’ isn’t one of them. The tree reminds me of a man who only irons the parts of his shirt that’ll be visible when he wears a jacket. So not the arms, not the back and above all, no taking the jacket off no matter how hot or unbearable it becomes. Admittedly, they’ve only started decorating the tree and LMS is of the opinion that it needs a lot more of everything before she’ll be happy, but if previous years efforts are anything to go by, probably best she doesn’t hold her breath. There are lights, tinsel and baubles, easily enough for a tree a fifth of its size.
I think back to a Christmas some years ago now where I had the weirdly disorientating – is there any other kind? – experience of visiting my girlfriends parents. In America. A really posh part of New York state. I should’ve been aware that all wasn’t well in the state of jmhplc when a limo picked us up from the airport. But hey, a free holiday is a free holiday after all so I went with it, and the limo to her parent’s house. ‘House’ doesn’t do it justice, it was a house in the same way that David Beckham was alright at football. It made me think of ‘Southfork’
Another sign should’ve been the bizarre transformation that affected Lou as soon as she pressed the bell. Gone was the independent, quasi-feminist I’d known, one who rejected anything that smacked matriarchal control. That person I knew, I didn’t know the person who was all ‘Yes Daddy’, all little girly, simpering, compliant and…totally Stepford. Worse was to come. We’d arrived on Christmas Eve and dressing the Christmas tree was a thing they all did, a family Christmas tradition.
First off, the tree. It was fucking huge, a big and bushy fucker! ‘There’s no way we’ll be able to decorate that’ I foolishly thought before I glanced down at the boxes of decorations at the foot of the tree. Which had been carefully packed away after last they’d taken the previous years Christmas tree.
Now my childhood experience of dressing our Christmas tree rather summed up what was to follow. Festive it wasn’t. Dad would go up to the loft and armed with a torch and swearing would return down with the Quality Street tins that the decorations were crammed into. He’d try and assemble the tree, which even if it were assembled perfectly would never look like it did on the box.
Then came the untangling of the lights. This would precipitate more swearing, only for there to be yet more when after he’d eventually untangled them, he’d discover that some of the lights weren’t working. I’d try not to laugh at him, a grown man incapable of not being bested by his own apathy a year earlier. Successful I always wasn’t. My brother didn’t help matters either. We’d always do something to annoy the other, start bickering, which would get my Dad involved with more swearing and alcohol.
So the sight of neatly ordered boxes of decorations, a real fuck off tree, together with a general air of calm that I thought couldn’t last, was something I was wholly unused to. ‘Of course it’ll be all smiles and politeness at first, but give it time, usually about the time belligerence and alcohol gatecrash proceedings, and it’ll quickly descend into something more familiar.’ But no! The calmness continued, helped by some good natured joshing, that seemed to be as well loved and well worn as some of the decorations. And to help with decorating the tree, they’d placed it in the centre of the room and bought a folding stepladder so they could dress the entire tree. Properly, not just the bits you can see, but the bits you can’t, the places deep within the tree, that were only going to be known to those who’d decorated it. Pride in job well done wasn’t even in it! It was for them as much a family Christmas tradition to be enjoyed as ours were to be endured.
Christmas tree’s are a good example of ‘before’ and ‘after’. ‘Before’ they’re just rather drab, rather green and rather busy large indoor plants. But ‘after’ is when the magic of Christmas has transformed it into something wonderful, sparkly with lots of tinsel, lots of fairy lights – multi-coloured natch – lots of…well everything. Subtle and understated it isn’t meant to be, what is meant be is something that if it were an item of clothing, Liberace would wear it.
Liberace wouldn’t be seen dead in…oh, I forgot!
LMS wants to move the tree into the centre of the now empty dining room, the problem with this being – and which is why it’ll never happen – is if it is, the full extent of its Scroogeness will be clearly evident. Quite how anyone could look at the tree, declare it good, and then not immediately see it as a sign that they needed to have an eye test is beyond me.
Last night Joe said he might get around to reading my blog sometimes. I warned him and Marge not to read this one.