Christmas Then vs Now


Growing up I loved the month of December. When my mother declared it time to for me and my sisters to take down all the holiday decorations from the attic I was euphoric. We hauled boxes upon boxes of holiday glee from our tiny walk in attic downstairs to our living room. We were like Santa’s elves unpacking and spreading holiday cheer throughout our home.

All the while my parents record player filled the house with holiday favorites. The sound of the record crackling, the pfft, pfft, pfft of the needle as it continued to knick against the paper center. Either myself or my sisters would rush downstairs to the basement to carefully change the record to the sounds of the Vienna Boys Choir. My favorite song The Little Drummer Boy would set my heart a flutter every time Bing sang it, pa rumpa pum pum.

I remember one year my father purchased a set of 1940’s era style skaters. They were no more than an inch tall and made out of iron, leaving indentations on my mom’s coveted coffee table every time they fell over. There was also the looming possibility the circular mirror they skated upon would be shattered every time their heavy bodies slammed onto the glass. They were the only thing I can remember my father ever purchasing for the holidays, or any time really. I loved them, maybe because my mother hated them so much and told us every time she walked by them. However, those skaters had no business being in a home with kids. It took me years to understand my mother’s hatred of them.

The most dreaded task though was the lights. Those fucking lights. The curse of holiday splendor all over the country. At the end of each season we rolled the lights haphazardly around newspaper and packed them away. There was little thought to the epic pain that awaited us the following year when the time came for my sisters and I to unroll the lights. A tangled mess always awaited us, with a guarantee most wouldn’t work. We stretched the lights from one end of the room to the other, unraveling the knots that inexplicably formed while they safely lay dormant in the attic. It was a time consuming painful experience that left everyone involved angry, obscenities flying from my mother; my sisters and I plodding along just trying to complete the task before my father came in with the tree.

The light debacle ran parallel to my father attempting to get our new tree into the 1950 metal red base. He would be outside sawing the bottom off the tree, axing chunks of the trunk until he could hammer it into the dented base. He shimmed the sides, screwing in large bolts to keep the tree steady, in hopes to avoid when the tree fell over breaking my grandmother’s antique Italian glass balls. My sisters and I scattered out of the room like mice being chased as my mother screamed words that would make a convict blush. The culprit was the tree stand, a mistake my father would never live down and not ever make again. From that year on there was a hook behind the tree. My dad would string rope around the tree tethering it to the wall, a trick we incorporated for our own children their fist few years.

Besides the potential of destroying a family heirloom the fresh tree brought with it a copious amount of pine needles that spread throughout our house like herpes. Some people call it Christmas Confetti, I call it Fa-La-La-La-La Lice. Months after the holiday season we would find the needles amongst our crap. The only good part was that they smelled wonderful, lending itself to the holiday cheer.

Even with all of the ridiculousness of the holidays I think back fondly on those times. I remember the good, and the bad, as I once again carry up the holiday decorations to adorn my own home.

I realize how much has changed since I was a child. Unlike me, my kids are only excited to partake in the decorating event for a few minutes before disappearing into the corners of our home. My husband puts up our fake pre-lit tree and plugs it in, the lights illuminating with the click of a switch. Christmas music loudly plays from our TV sound system much to the chagrin of every occupant in our home except me and my daughter.

“Yes, things sure have changed since I was a kid,” I think as I step outside to admire my garland which is wrapped around our front porch posts. I lean over to plug in the lights I have painstakingly twisted around the 50 feet of garland. For the first time I realize I never checked them before I wove them around and around. “Oh it shouldn’t matter, these will work,” I thought. Lights now a days, unlike when I was a kid, are designed to continue working even if one fails. I marvel at how far we have advanced in the last 30 years.

After dragging out the green outdoor extension cord, and winding it through my bushes to the outlet, I step back to admire the holiday splendor. And that’s when I notice only a third of the lights work.

Son of a bitch! Holy Shit! God Dammit I shriek – just as my mother did 30 years ago.

I guess it really hasn’t changed much, has it.





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  1. Diane says:

    Yep. Holidays come and go. The language stays the same.

  2. In rainy Portland, this weekend was dry and the neighborhoods were a buzz with decorating and I think some frustrated language. Times change and then they don’t!

  3. Phil says:

    Oh yes, I remember many a holiday season helping my dad put up the lights. I think that’s how I learned most of my curse words.

  4. It’s almost worse these days–I put up a bunch of lights during a power failure (because apparently I am a moron) and when I plugged them in when the power came back, HALF of them worked. Like, the left half was fine, but the right half were out. WTF? How the hell does that even happen? I’d have preferred them ALL to be out, because then they were justifiably trash (OK, they were trash anyway, but I felt a little bad about tossing them since SOME of them worked). And just how do Christmas lights snarl up lying by themselves in a box for 11 months? I’ve never been able to figure that out, either.

  5. Christmas was fun when we only had only one responsibility, decorating the tree. Now I make a list that’s as long as my arm, check it twice, and then lose the list. January is looking better and better!