I’m a little bit of a late bloomer when it comes to getting ready for Christmas, kind of like those bulbs you have to plant in your flower garden in the dead of winter to turn into flowers come spring. Or maybe it’s the seeds you plant. The point is, you’ll find me getting ready for Christmas just about the time WalMart begins laying in fertilzer and peat moss with an eye toward the bulging wallets and wish lists of early gardeners.
I started shopping before Christmas this year, though. I was going to wait, but the operators were standing by and I had to call right away to get the bonus Ginsu knives which I desperately need because I’ve lost the key to the rented storage building where I keep the reindeer for the yard and if those knives can cut through a soda can like they show on TV, I’m sure they can handle that cheap padlock the manager of the storage place put on the door.
Although I don’t go full out in the decorating area, you can tell it’s Christmas around my house by subtle changes in the décor. Just keep an eye out for mutations in the dust patterns and you can tell where I’ve turned an eye toward holiday preparation.
I’ve moved the nativity scene that I forgot to put away last year from the shelf in the laundry room to the top of the entertainment center, dusted off the baby Jesus and removed the dryer sheet from the shepherd’s staff. It made him look like a flagboy on race day anyway, even though it gave the whole scene an air of celebration.
What appears to be stray branches connected by lumps of unkempt fur in one corner of the living room is actually a small Frasier fir holding up under the strain of the investigative processes of two Labradors, three cats, and an inquisitive Dachshund sporting a Christmas tree skirt. Occasionally the tree gives a shudder and deposits various small animals on the floor like a pile of cast-off inhabitants of the Island of Misfit Toys. The version of that Christmas tale that boasts “not a creature was stirring” never had a cat who took personal offense at live greenery that was not scented to match the litterbox.
There are 1,467 gift bags of assorted sizes and heritage covering every available flat surface, along with several containers of used bows that are perfectly suitable for family gifts if you affix them to packages with a loop of Scotch tape. At least one of the bags is surrounded by shredded tissue paper. (See the “not a creature was stirring” reference in the previous paragraph.) There is no Scotch tape anywhere in the house, not even in the junk drawer. There are several dozen wood screws of assorted sizes in the junk drawer, but repeated attempts at giftwrap show that wood screws are not effective for this purpose.
The kitchen table is covered with bits of burned sugar cookies and ingredients for partially assembled gelatin salads and casseroles that will bear offerings of melted cheese and Ritz crackers come Christmas day. This is not considered untidiness in the kitchen, but rather food preparation decorations with holiday flair.
There is a wreath on the outside of the closet door instead of the inside of the closet door. The wreath boasts a giddy snowman who is on the verge of bursting into the songs of the season just as soon as Bill Dear tells me where he hid the batteries.
There is a car in the driveway awaiting new tires, a replacement windshield wiper, or an oil change. Nothing says Merry Christmas at our house quite like a car in need of body work. There is not a sense of urgency for the repairs, however, due to the fact that I’m fairly certain that the key to the car is locked in the storage building with the yard-bound reindeer.
So for all of you folks who have every Martha Stewartesque napkin folded into snowflakes, don’t judge me on my lack of handmade ornaments and scented candles. Christmas at my house might have a different flavor and a smell that tends more toward PineSol than pine branches, but the spirit is the same.