Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Real Christmas Fruit Cake

This piece orriginally ran December 9, 2007, but Christmas specials recycle every year so why not blogs?

We bought an artificial tree this year. Up until now, I had staunchly vowed never to buy a fake tree. I thought plastic trees were as evil as Charlie Brown and Linus thought they were in the Christmas special. I had also vowed never to eat fruit cake.

In both cases, I mocked what I did not understand. As an adult, I’ve actually tasted good fruit cake. It was homemade, scrumptious and left me wanting more. When we assembled the tree and I had a similar epiphany. I didn’t have to sweep half the branches out the door from unpacking it. I wouldn’t have to water it! I didn’t have to crawl underneath, pine sap dripping on me to screw the trunk into the base. I wouldn’t have to water it! The lights were already on it. I wouldn’t have to water it! So I was in an instant perfect Christmas mood and I didn’t have to water it.

Putting on classical Christmas music, I brought up the ornaments from the basement, anticipating, no savoring, a “to be treasured family moment.” Sighing happily, my brain exploded with a holiday list. “We’ll decorate the tree and set up the crèche and take a picture all in our Christmas sweaters and bake cookies…” I had briefly channeled Martha Stewart.

It lasted exactly five minutes and forty three seconds.

After the initial rush of opening boxes and “oohing” at beautiful ornaments had waned, the children began to reassert their personalities.

With eighteen hands reaching into boxes all at the same time, there was a lot of gentle patient nudging. I smiled benevolently and turned the music up a notch. In retrospect, now would have been a good time to sip a bit of Christmas wine.

Ornament placement became a problem. One child started snatching up prime locations on the tree like they were Boardwalk and Park Place. Then there was the “She got all the good ornaments!” issue. A daughter had taken to stockpiling all of the choice pieces. She was bartering with the squatter.

It had to happen. Someone was on a step ladder, someone was hanging a glass ball using a paperclip as a hook, someone wanted their silver reindeer in front of a light, somehow somebody hit the ornament the wrong way and ...“Crash.”

There were great accusations and denials as to who hung the now crushed glass green ball. Clearing out its remains jostled the wiring. Then of course the lights on the tree wouldn’t light on one side. Wrestling with the tree caused a few more ornaments to fall. I turned off the radio with a bit of a sigh. My Christmas mood was fading.

Meanwhile, on the floor disassembling the nativity scene, three not so wise ones were arguing over who got to play with the sheep and who got stuck with the cow. A smug looking older sibling opted to appear pious by hanging only angels, while lecturing on what was “appropriate.” The squabbles lead to two children stomping off. The oldest used the commotion to bug out to play Nintendo, followed quickly by his sister. That left the adults, two toddlers, the baby and one overly helpful kindergartner who only wanted to use the step ladder.

“That’s enough!” I yelled.

I turned on the radio, finding the All Christmas all the time station. “I’m putting on this Season's schmaltziness tunes. Come back here all of you! That means YOU! We’re going to have a Christmas moment and you will feel maudlin sentiment about your family even if I have to play “Christmas Shoes” to get it!”

Five seconds of silence and then recognizing the clear and present danger that loomed, from all directions they came running.

“Mom! I’m coming. Look, I brought our stockings!”

“I’m playing Holly Jolly Christmas on my Trombone!”

“Me next, I’ll do Jingle Bells on the piano.”

“Hey Dad, can we hang lights outside? Please?”

Within minutes, all was calm, all was bright. The tree sparkled, some of the kids were outside trimming the house and a memory had been created. Sweeping up the last of the broken pieces, I looked over at the baby, asleep in her bouncer and the toddlers who are busy playing with some bells. The nativity scene has a hot wheel and a reindeer added to it and is missing a sheep. Martha Stewart wouldn’t approve but I do. My husband brought me a glass of Christmas wine.

“There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays…” played on the radio.
Maybe I’m pushing it if I tell them this year I think we should make homemade fruit cake.


L. Lemanski said...

Wow . . . what an adventure! I felt like I was right in the middle of it!

I think I'll take time to appreciate little J, sitting in his rocker/bouncy watching me intently as I hang ornaments (on our artificial tree that we vowed never to get until our real trees kept dying an early death since we are always a state away during Christmas), dance to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, gulp my hot chocolate, and string popcorn--cause next year it'll be a whole new ball game.

Anonymous said...

LOL, Sherry, too funny. The difference between one and many -- my 17-year-old did most of the tree yesterday, and, of course, argued about the handful of ornaments I wanted up because, and I quote "they don't GO with our THEME". She was quite adamant.

I'd made the cocoa, I won. (And they do TO go with the theme!)


Suburban Correspondent said...

Sounds like our house, too - so good to hear that other families miss the mark as far as Norman Rockwell Christmases go.

Arachne Jericho said...

I love your Christmas stories!

The utter chaos is funny--and so true!

Kate Boddie said...

All the more reason why I just have a dog. And, surprisingly enough, he's stayed away from the tree this year although he took to slapping my stocking around a few times. Great piece!

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