Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Decoration of Independence

To celebrate Christmas this year, I decided to go “all out” when it came to decorating my house. I wanted to saturate my rooms with the same kind of Christmas décor I remembered from my youth. Ornaments, figurines, a wreath made out of bottle caps and bread dough. I wanted to immerse myself in the holiday spirit and cover my walls with everything red and green.

And to make sure I had enough time to successfully complete the process, I decided to begin right after Thanksgiving. That would give me nearly a month to get everything ready. Plenty of time, right?

So on Black Friday, with an overabundance of enthusiasm and caffeine, I mounted the stairs to the attic to find my collection of holiday paraphernalia. The various boxes and bags were all carefully stored together in one corner, so whenever I purchased a new ornament or decoration, it was easy to find a place for it. I would just add it to the pile.

Unfortunately, now that I was actually standing in front of the pile, trying to remember what all the boxes contained, I got a little overwhelmed. There was so much stuff. Certainly too much to effectively conquer in a mere twenty-some days. Perhaps I should have started this process much earlier. Like before Halloween.

As I pawed through my stack of holiday memorabilia, I remembered all the joy I used to have as a kid whenever holiday decorations were brought out. The whole family used to gather together to trim the tree and place all the decorations throughout the house. Even our bathroom had special décor we’d put out every year. (A toilet seat cover with Santa’s face on it. When you lifted the seat, the other side showed him covering his eyes in embarrassment.)

There was such a magical aura or spirit about the season, and for some reason the decorations had a lot to do with maintaining that ambiance. I was always sad when we had to put everything away again, because it immediately changed our house from a festive party atmosphere to something much more ordinary. And dull.

So with this in mind, I began carting the boxes of ornaments and other accoutrements down to the living room, where I piled them up in a corner for safe-keeping. This pile was eventually divided into two sections, one of which was taken down to the basement for distribution in the recreation room. Because of the number of boxes, and the awkwardness of getting them down the narrow attic stairs, the entire process took several hours to accomplish. And when it was completed, I suddenly had no desire to do anything more, let alone decorate. So I took a nap for the rest of the day.

A week went by and the boxes still remained in their piles on the floor. Every time I looked at them, I began to feel nauseous. Not because I didn’t like what they contained, but because I dreaded the day I’d have to haul them back upstairs.

And that’s when I realized I might have a bit of “selective memory” when it came to my youthful holiday experiences. Because now that I really thought about it, my family stopped decorating for the holidays sometime before I reached puberty. I was the only one who actually brought down the decorations and distributed them throughout the house. The rest of the family was too busy watching football games or doing crossword puzzles. So if I really thought about it, most of my childhood memories of domestic holiday spirit were actually manufactured by me. If I hadn’t kept up the tradition of setting up the tree and decorating it, we might have opened our presents in front of a Hallmark card.

So in reality, I wasn’t recreating a family tradition by decorating my house in style. I was recreating my own tradition. A tradition I’d carried out independently, long after other members of the family ceased to care. (I don’t mean they didn’t appreciate my efforts; they just didn’t care to help with the process.)

It is now December 20th and I haven’t even gotten through half my boxes yet. What the Hell was I thinking? How much Christmas spirit does one need to purchase until they realize enough in enough? Don’t get me wrong, I love all the Radkos and Hallmarks and lighted houses and such. But now I have enough holiday décor to supply a small village. There simply is not enough room in my house to showcase everything effectively. Or at least not in the little time I have remaining.

Next year, I think I’ll hire a display crew to come in and set everything up. That way I can still enjoy the holiday, without losing any of my spirit.

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