It’s time to put up the tree again. I know this because my wife has been dropping those subtle hints for a few days now – watching Bing and Danny and Rosemary and Vera on endless repeat in the blue ray and reminding me that the neighbor’s light display is already up (that bastard).
And so it begins. First comes the Parade of Chairs, because the tree only goes in the corner by the fireplace, where a side chair lives the remaining 11 months out of the year. Relocating it starts a chain reaction of moves – the corner chair integrates nicely with the pieces in the front room, so one of those has to go to make way. Up to the bedroom with it, where there is already one chair too many because we never could decide if the teal or the gray one went better with the new bedspread.
For now, the teal chair gets bumped to the office (even though it clashes with the green rocker/recliner that’s in there – we’ll keep the door closed) to make way in the bedroom for the chair displaced from the front room by the chair that came out of the corner by the fireplace. Still with me? A fistful of Aleve®, and I’m ready to drag the tree up from the basement.
Yes, it’s an artificial tree. No, I’m not here to argue the benefits or detriments of said artificiality when compared to a real one. Yes, yours smells wonderful. But in my house, no living organisms were killed in order to satisfy this archaic holiday tradition (okay, so I am arguing). Of course, my tree will eventually be consigned to the landfill. But in an effort to keep that from happening for as long as possible, I continue to press it into service well past its prime. You see, the original lights all went dark long ago, string by string, to the last bulb. So I have taken to re-stringing it for lo these many years.
This brings us to Dia de los Muertos, the moment of reckoning. Upon initial assembly of the fake fir, I connect all the various strings together, then hold my breath in anticipation as I plug the tree into the wall outlet. The results are varied but always disappointing, as even the newer lights have roughly the same life expectancy as a loaf of bread left on the counter. The branches already hang heavy with the expired bulbs of Christmases past, left as a reminder of the folly of man’s aspirations. That, and it’s just more expeditious to simply add new strings over the carcasses of the departed.
So I tediously snake them throughout the tree to insure there will be no blank spots, no unforgivable gaps in illumination. Much of this is done from the floor, flat on my back, reaching up amongst the tangle of wires and bottle-brush ‘limbs’ while reminding myself that my suffering is not unlike Michelangelo’s as he labored on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
In order to get everything just so requires the precision of a Swiss watchmaker and, as I venture into the higher sections, the flexibility of a contortionist. Plugs dangle everywhere, with no way of knowing which belong to the living or the dead except to try them one after the other. The element of surprise is what keeps me going.
And when it is finally done, when the twinkle of lights has been fully restored for yet another year and the decorations complete, no human or pet is allowed to go within five feet of the tree for fear that the slightest bouncing of the floor or movement of a branch might be enough to trigger an outage. Because if a string goes dark after the ornaments and tinsel are up, there will be blood.
And next December I will do it all again. Or maybe someone will be making holographic Christmas trees by then.