REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK: The trials of being Mother Christmas
This holiday, my 25th Christmas, marks the first Christmas I will not be with my family. Unfortunately, we were unable to rearrange the calendar so Christmas falls on a more convenient day of the week and with the width of a large continent between us, spending all of Christmas day traveling just wasn’t reasonable.
So I set out earlier this month to create my own Christmas traditions and make my house as cozy and gingerbread-like as possible.
The nickname “Mother Christmas” was given to me by friends who began to notice that perhaps I was trying a little too hard to make my surroundings festive.
My roommate, Sara, and I started by getting the Christmas tree. It was the first Christmas tree of my own, so it had to be as perfect as the checkbook was able to allow. And it was … As we loaded the tree onto the top of Sara’s small Volkswagen in the Rite-Aid parking lot, my excitement for the holidays was almost as genuine and pure as it was when I accompanied my parents to the Holly Berry Farm in Chesterfield County, Va. to select a tree.
When we got up to our house, actually getting the tree standing and ready for decoration was a different story. This was my Dad’s job, the boring part, the part I never paid much attention to. I struggled for a good 45 minutes to get the wooden stand de-nailed from the bottom of the tree trunk. I couldn’t find a hammer in the house to speak of, and figured my strength could do the trick. After much maneuvering and a pine needle mess on our floor, I pulled the wooden cross free from the trunk, with a force so great I flew across the room and landed on my back.
I looked at the clock. It was getting late, but I wasn’t going to bed, nor were my housemates, until that tree was standing tall in my living room adorned in holiday decor.
But if I could only get the darned tree to stand straight in the tree stand. Every time I walked away, the tree slid away from me and leaned towards the sliding glass door. So I had to haul it back across the room to saw off some branches around the trunk for a better fit. After grunting and yelping in frustration for another 20 minutes and finally breaking a sweat, the tree was up, though I am still a bit wary of the strength of the setup – especially when my cat sits on the floor staring longingly at a shining round ornament near the top of the tree.
I immediately put my housemates and a visiting friend to work. Ornaments needed to be hung, popcorn and cranberry lines strung and lights, and don’t forget about all of the lights I bought for both the inside and outside of our house.
Later, as I was coming in from lighting our walkway and stewing over the fact I would need to take two boxes of lights back because of bulbs that didn’t work, I looked around at the Christmas scene I had created in my living room. Stockings were hung on the mantle, the room smelled of pine and lights sparkled from every corner of the room. But my friends were falling asleep with each piece of popcorn they pierced with their needles.
“Mother Christmas, can we go to bed now?”, they would ask.
Every day after that, Mother Christmas was up to something Christmassy: lighting scented candles, baking cookies, standing on cars to hang a wreath on the garage, climbing trees to hang yet more lights, wrapping gifts and preparing packages to send back east. And every day something went wrong with each task. My cookies flattened, my car hood has a small dent, my cat stashed all of my ribbon and I slipped on the ice hanging lights.
“Mother Christmas, what have you gotten yourself into now?”
Things really turned catastrophic for Mother Christmas when it was my turn to snow-blow the driveway after last week’s storm. I thought I’d make things easier for all of us and clear the walkway to our door and pathway that goes around the side of the house. I was humming to myself and smiling as I walked by the giant tree that was strung with big round colored lights. I could see my housemates through the window working on the computer and talking on the phone in the living room near the Christmas tree.
Then everything went dark and the snow-blowing machine began to make an eerie humming sound. I looked at the tree, my lights! I had plowed right through the extension cord from the side of our house to the light strand in the tree. The cord was ripped right out of the wall and severed in half and was wrapped around the auger of the snowblower. Power was out all throughout the downstairs of the house.
Mother Christmas was crushed.
This week, Mother Christmas has things back in order and refuses to give up. The holiday is only days away and I don’t doubt there will be a few more minor mishaps. But I carry my new title with pride and can’t help but wonder if my determination to wrap myself with Christmas spirit has touched others around me, even my skeptical friends.
Either way, this Christmas, my first Christmas alone, will be one to remember.
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