Or, as I think of it, the month of scattered pine needles. Pine needles on the floor, pine needles stuck to your socks, pine needles in the curtains, pine needles in the dogs' fur. I know I'm not the only one who hasn't finished cleaning up the pine needles from last year's tree. It's probably a good thing, really, since if it weren't for having to move the furniture around to accommodate the tree, that corner with the oversized chair would never get vacuumed.
Every year, we get our Christmas tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving weekend. I suppose you could call it a tradition. In our case, I think it's just because the only way we can keep track of all the holidays we celebrate is by keeping to a pretty strict schedule. My mom was raised Catholic; my dad was raised Muslim; my husband was raised Jewish. When people ask how I'm raising my kids, I tell them "Tolerant." But despite my best intentions, the holidays get a little complicated. One day a few years ago, we went to a party celebrating my cousin's return from the Haj, came home and lit the Hanukkah candles, and then went to a Christmas party. My kids used to confuse Moses with Santa Claus. And I once overheard Older Son explaining to Younger Son that we light the Hanukkah candles so that Santa can see the stockings when he comes down the chimney.
This year, I totally got slammed by Hanukkah coming much earlier than usual. I keep the Menorah with the Christmas decorations and pull it out the Sunday after Thanksgiving weekend, which is our traditional Day of Decorating. This year, though, Hanukkah struck the Wednesday after Thanksgiving, four days before the Day of Decorating. I realized this on Wednesday evening, right after I got home from working all day, and after the sun had gone down. I managed to locate some leftover Hanukkah candles in the laundry room cabinet, under the hot glue gun and the old pantyhose, but the Menorah was somewhere in a box in the attic, and I wasn't about to brave that place in the dark. I melted some candles to a saucer and used that for our Menorah. What it lacked in sophistication, it made up for in...nothing. There was nothing redeeming about it. But at least we had candles.
Today was the traditional Day of Decorating. Last night, the KH and I got the tree up (I wonder how many marriages break up over that?) and hauled all the boxes of decorations out of the attic. We piled them in the living room, and this morning, I awoke to the sound of Younger Son asking plaintively if I was ready to start decorating yet? He's been asking in much the same tone for a week, so I'm getting used to it.
I wasn't ready, naturally, especially since the KH was gone for the day, leaving me to wrangle The Champions of Sibling Rivalry by myself, but a cup of coffee and some oatmeal made it seem at least possible. I opened all the ornament boxes, sorted the ornaments, and then remembered that I bought all new, dog-friendly ornaments last year. They were nowhere to be found. I completely unpacked every box. No ornaments. Finally it occurred to me that they might not have made it out of the attic. I strapped on a headlamp and went in, carefully avoiding the exposed nails, loose fiberglass insulation, and anywhere that looked like it might house spiders. After some rummaging, I found the missing box right near the entry, under the baby jail we used to contain the puppies. I reflected on how smart it was of me to pack all the ornaments I wanted in a single box near the entry to the attic last year so that I wouldn't have to haul out all the boxes again this year--while I was repacking all the boxes and dragging them back upstairs to return to the attic.
With Younger Son's help, I tackled the tree lights. I got the first strand on without too much trouble--if you understand that this means no more trouble than one would expect to have crawling around and around a spiny tree shoved up against a wall with furniture all around it and a lamp that has to be straddled cautiously with each trip around. Younger Son handed me the second strand and I began my journey again. Around and around and around. It wasn't until the end of the second strand that I realized it was the wrong one. So back I went again, around and around and around. And then back the other way for two more strands. Then we plugged them in. Since only half the bulbs were burned out, I called it good and moved on to the ornaments.
I called in the kids, who immediately began fighting over who got to hang which ornaments and who got the prime spots on the front of the tree and whose ornament was where first and who always gets the best of everything and how much better life would be if they were both only children. I cranked up the Christmas carols and pretended they were noisy elves. After about ten minutes, they both lost interest and disappeared, leaving me in relative peace, until I heard Older Son asking me if there was a faster way to thaw bacon.
Bacon? I didn't recall giving permission to cook bacon. In fact, I wasn't even aware we had bacon in the house. I am not a bacon fan. I don't like the smell, and I hate the grease that gets all over everything. I am absolutely certain that, even wacked out on morphine--which, sadly, I was not--I would never have given The Walking Disaster permission to actually cook bacon in my kitchen. And yet, it was undeniable that he was asking how to thaw bacon faster, and I suspected the question was not merely for personal interest. Also, I was wondering how he was trying to thaw bacon that it wasn't fast enough.
I headed for the kitchen to find him carrying a drippy handful of half-frozen bacon, that he had just removed from a large bowl full of water, across my freshly mopped kitchen floor. I screamed. He jumped. The greasy water splattered everywhere. I caught him before he dropped the wet bacon into the hot pan on the stove, but not before the dogs discovered the rare treat that is bacon grease on the kitchen floor and flung themselves upon it gleefully. By the time I had it sorted out, Older Son was banished to the garage, the dogs were banished to the laundry room, and I was frying wet, splattering, half thawed bacon with my feet sticking to the kitchen floor and every window in the house wide open.
Eventually I made it back to the decorating. I had almost finished the tree when the sound of frantic squawking came in through the window. I ran out to the chicken yard, thinking the gate was open and one of the dogs was harassing the chickens, only to find that one of the girls was missing, and the noise was coming from the neighbors' yard. I ran back through the house to the front yard and down to the neighbors' house. I was about to ring their doorbell when I heard screaming from the backyard, so I ran in the back gate to discover Mimi the chicken floating in the pool while Max the dog barked at her from the edge and Heidi the neighbor tried to reach her with the pool pole. Mimi was the picture of calm amid the chaos, sitting in the water like a duck, not even paddling and making no noise at all. In fact, she looked a little smug, having defeated the Great Canine Menace, who is afraid of the water. Heidi the neighbor successfully fished her out of the pool and I returned the perfectly happy, albeit sopping wet, chicken to her yard and finished the decorating.
I can hardly wait to see what the rest of the season brings. Thank God I'm working tomorrow.