December 3, 2010

Why Dads (and Moms) Love Christmas Trees

When it comes to decorating for Christmas, a Dad has three major jobs: Put up the tree, string up the lights and make sure the fridge is always stocked with an ample amount of eggnog. It's the only honeydew list my wife assembles that I look forward to. I mean it. A typical, non-Christmas honeydew list at Klems Manor looks something like this:
Dear Brian,
Please do the things on this list ASAP.
Seriously,
Your Wife

To-Dos:
—Cut the grass
—Take out the garbage
—Water the flowers (peeing on them does not count)
—Wrap up the hose when you're finished (I can't believe I have to remind you of this)
—Cut the grass (Yes I put this on here again. I know you skipped over it the first time)
—Sweep the floor
—Change the light bulbs
—Move your folded clothes from the laundry basket into your dresser (and "dresser" is not code for "floor")
—Clean the toilet
—Cut the grass (Trust me, by the time you actually finish this list, it'll need it again)
Christmas is different. Aside from the occasional bulb not working causing the entire strand to go out and getting the evil eye from neighbors because my strands are blinking at different speeds, I love hanging up the lights. And eggnog? Hell, I stare longingly at our supermarket's freezer section all year, counting down the days until the eggnog returns. The taste reminds me of sitting at my grandma's kitchen table, explaining to her why I was especially good that year so Santa would bring me Super Mario 3 (which he did!) and an elephant (which, unfortunately, he didn't).

Putting up the Christmas tree, though—well, that's my favorite holiday tradition of all. The moment it comes out of the box, the season of Christmas is finally launched. I stand it up straight and lock it into its base. The limbs hang bare momentarily, as I bend and fluff them. I wrap it in a skirt, which is unfortunate because our tree's name is Clint. Then I assemble the troops—my two daughters, whose ages combined I can count on one hand, and my wife, whose age I won't mention—and grab the boxes of ornaments that will soon bring our tree to life.

Now to understand our tree you must understand what each of us brings to the table. My wife has a box full of beautiful, handcrafted (and highly breakable) porcelain ornaments she's received every year of her life to commemorate each Christmas. A smiling angel from 1984. A Santa sleigh from 1997. A pastel reindeer from 2006. I, on the other hand, contribute a box of memories filled with Popsicle-stick stars, dried Play-Doh blobs, and a pipe-cleaner wreath, that's held together (poorly) by what I can only assume was once a piece of chewed gum. I know they sound silly, but each of these items commemorates particular Christmases of my life and is every bit as important to me as my wife's are to her. So we hang them all, allowing our tree to host a friendly mix of ornaments that have little in common. We may not have the fanciest tree or the most do-it-yourself tree, but we have a family tree—the way it should be.

Back to decorating the tree: Once the troops (my kids) are aligned and the ornaments have escaped their off-season home in our basement, we begin to unwrap and hang. This used to be a systematic process. We'd pop Home Alone in the DVD player. My wife would remove items from the box and hand them off. I'd find homes for each one. And just as big brother Buzz yells "KEVIN! WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY ROOM!" I hang the last decoration—an ornament of Homer Simpson wearing a Santa hat. But now my kids were no longer interested in sitting patiently on the sidelines. They demanded playing time. They were helper elves ready to shine. So we let them.

They hung nearly everything. They hung the fancy ornaments. They hung the Popsicle-stick ornaments. Then hung Homer. They'd bolt back and forth from their Mom to the tree, tripping over each other's feet, carrying ornaments—as well as smiles—on every trip. They hung each memory with care and finished before Kevin's parents even realized they'd left him home alone.

They stepped away from the tree. Ella looked it up and down, grinning widely, impressed with her and her sister's work. Anna nodded in agreement.

"It's looks pretty!" said Ella.

"Pretty!" said Anna.

They were proud. So were we. And as my wife and I stepped away to take a look at our children's work, we put our arms around each other and smiled at our beautifully decorated Christmas tree—that only had decorations on the bottom 1/3rd of it.

*****
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5 comments:

Required said...

Substituting a real tree (no offense Clint, but you do wear a skirt), and Raffi's Christmas on the stereo instead of Home Alone on the TV - Our Christmas tradition is remarkably similair.

Enjoy!

jennifer said...

eggnog reminds me of gma klems too...however...i am not a fan.

The Weed said...

Hey, glad I stumbled on your blog. As a fellow-father, it's fun to see others talking about minivans and bedtime rituals. I'm following.

Matt said...

I don't know what it is. I always loved the build up until Christmas as a child. Every part of it.

As an adult, I always get cranky when the time comes to set up and decorate the Christmas tree.

It's not because it's hard work. It's not. It's not because my wife and son place any unreasonable stress upon me. Quite the opposite, they're both in great moods as we do it.

I don't know why. Even knowing in advance that I tend to be grumpy and trying to coutner the feeling before it arises, it still usually gets the better of me.

I never let my son see it of course, he's 4 years old and I don't want to spoil it for him, but my wife is observant enough to notice it and tries hard to help me snap out of it.

I've heard the same from other Dads so I'm glad to hear that it's not a universal feeling!

Kara said...

I love that you have a mismatched sentimental tree—I've never understood the perfectly coordinated Christmas trees.