Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bossy Betty Gets Mushy All Week Long Over All Things Christmas

Betty People! Betty and the fam-bam are on vacation this week, but I've taken the liberty of planning some reposts for your reading pleasure. I'll be back to check on you and your blogs very soon!


Even a pragmatic gal like Betty starts to get a little mushy when those Christmas ornaments are pulled out. Each one is like a seed that has been buried all year in that dark tin in the garage. When I hold it in the warmth of my hand, it blooms with memories until it fills up the tender folds of my heart. Is it any wonder I have to sit down and collect myself by eating chocolate-covered Oreos and drinking Diet Pepsi at least three times while decorating the tree? Oh yes, Betty can get quite mushy over things like this and in this season of sharing, I have decided to ooze all this sentimentality over you as well, like warm minty-flavored toothpaste, so put on the Elvis Christmas CD and prepare to hear about my five favorite ornaments over the course of the next five days.

Today, however, we discuss the canvas upon which these ornaments are hung. I'd like to tell you it's a lush Scottish pine, selected by our sweater-wearing, hearty family one cold and snowy afternoon and felled by the local red-faced tree farmer who bore a striking resemblance to St. Nick and who waved to us as we drove away with our tree tied atop our station wagon. However, it's actually a skinny pre-lit Target special plucked this year from the rafters of the garage by disgruntled family males on a freakishly hot, windy afternoon in December here in Southern California.

I used to insist on a "live" tree and the whole tradition of selecting it. I was frenetic to get the right tree, and I was on high alert for any family member not displaying what I considered to be the proper amount of excitement over the traditions of hanging ornaments, etc. Sensing any sign of less-than-maniacal enthusiasm from others set my holiday Spirit-O-Meter off like an overly-sensitive hotel sprinkling system. I would immediately rain down a torrent of Christmas spirit that would send others running for cover in other rooms while the Christmas Clown continued her reign of red and green terror in the living room, happy Christmas carols blasting from the stereo, oblivious to the fact that her family members had thrown themselves overboard to escape the horrific ride on the Good Ship Christmas Spirit.

I look back now and understand that, far away from extended family, I was determined to carve out my own traditions, and to make the holiday fill in the gaps for all Christmases past and present and not just my own. HOB had his own set of Christmas baggage and would have just preferred to skip the holiday entirely, so I was even MORE determined to make him and everyone around me happy, happy, happy, HAPPY!!!! This, as any psychotherapist will tell you was a monumental task, even for the strangely-energized delusional person. Add children to the mix, and then just call the local mental hospital and ask for the Family Plan.

One year it was clear the tree needed water, so I crawled under the prickly branches and poured the water in the basin, praying that it would not overflow on to the floor. I lay there waiting for the water to settle, listening to Jose Feliciano sing “Feliz Navidad” on the stereo. I was deep under the wide tree so that if anyone came into the room at that moment, they would have flashbacks of scenes from “Little Shop of Horrors.” I lay my face on the cool floor and began to think. It seemed to me that, in our house at least, if you had female organs you were the one to select the tree, nag until the tree got put up, belly-crawl under the tree on a weekly basis to make sure it had water, de-decorate the sucker after the holidays, wrestle it down, drag it out, leaving a trail of water and needles, and then clean up the pine needles for months afterwards.

Jose Feliciano was still singing when I lifted my head up, scraping my scalp on the branches and thought, “This part of Navidad is NOT Feliz.” I extracted myself from beneath the tree and proclaimed, “Basta, Yah! No Mas!” and that year, just after Christmas, I made my way to Target and grabbed the first sad fake tree priced to move. That pre-lit wonder that now stands in our living room. We snap the sucker together, bend out the boughs, hang the ornaments and voila! Bring on the presents.

Here’s the Christmas miracle: What I learned was the fully-loaded and tinseled tree, the five singing wreaths strategically placed all over the house, the plastic Santa and Rudolph in the entryway, and the flashing bells belting out tinny Christmas Carols mean nothing if the Mama of the house is not relaxed and happy. When I calmed down, and stopped resenting all those who were not matching my level of expectation for the holiday, the Munchkins of the village came out, came out, wherever they were and actually picked up decorations and hung them on the tree without being asked to.

So, Betty has calmed down A LOT from past years. Oh, don’t worry. Betty is not getting up on Christmas morning, scratching herself, having a ciggie and a beer and then going back to bed. No, we have all the traditions, the special dinnerware, the stockings on the mantel. And on Christmas morning we gather around that fake tree made out of an oil-derived material with its plastic pine cones and artificial boughs, and we smile at each other with real love.

Tomorrow: We begin our trip down Ornament Alley. Dress appropriately.

30 comments:

Seams Inspired said...

LOL! Looking forward to the trip down the alley. :o) Happy Saturday!

Tracy said...

I grew up with an artificial tree and now insist on a live one...but I sense that changing as I get older and really don't want to hassle with the pine needles.
I can't wait for the trip...I will dress in my finest :)

Catherine said...

Christmas can bring out different sides of people. But in the end, it's all about the love! :)

Happy Saturday Betty!
xo Catherine

McGillicutty said...

I too have the prelit thingy but got a great deal at a yard sale... that makes me happy every year!!!
Oh I wish for something elaborate and well put together but I'll save it for when I'm old and rich and someone else can crawl under there!!!!

Brian said...

Our tree isn't real either, but I think we would probably like a real one!

Gigi said...

Well said, Ms. Betty.

Now what shall I wear for tomorrow's trip?

Daisy said...

We had a real tree one year--never again! HA! I like it just fine that way. Ours comes out of the box in the attic every year. :D

Out on the prairie said...

I think back and remember trying to keep that tree wet. One year I got a great idea. Place a five gallon bucket as the base and fill it with cat litter. It is meant to hold liquids so should do a grand job.Not knowing cat litter was made of mud, I made a huge lump of undetermined weight. Getting sent out of town when it was time to dimantle my redneck wonder, my pregnant wife had to saw it up and still wrestle my bucket of mud which I found laying in the backyard with tree parts when I got home. So began our tradition of fake trees.She probably rolls in her grave today should I mention a live one.

Tracy said...

We finally got a fake tree last year and began the yearly tradition of "unfolding" the tree. And, Betty, you are just an old softie at heart. We all know it.

Nicole said...

I really like this post. Thanks for sharing a little insight into your Christmas traditions!

Old Kitty said...

Awww BB!!! You had to find your own way to a peaceful equilibrium - but you had to go through fire, trial and error to get there!!

But there are SOME traditions that must be kept and I say, hear, hear!!

Scratching oneself and drowning in beer and nicotine on Christmas morning is a fine and wonderful tradition!!

Take care
x

Ann said...

As much as I love a real Christmas tree I made the switch to a pre lit artificial a few years back for the sake of convenience. You would have thought, by the reactions of my kids, that I had committed the most offensive crime known to man.
Look forward to seeing the ornaments

Sarah said...

Sometimes we have to wonder: are we enjoying the traditions or the traditions are laughing at us merrily?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I used to want a real tree until my wife taught me the joys of the artificial ones that didn't drop needles, require water, or threaten to burst into flames by Christmas morning.

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

Does the psyche ward offer a family discount? I'll have to look into that.

My tree is from an after Christmas sale at Target too. I enjoy the convenience and if water spilled on our floor HOJ (husband of Joey) would kill me.

Ren- Lady Of The Arts said...

Great Tree Betty- We don't have a tree but I would imagine that having a real one in the house smells great!

Have a lovely weekend!

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

That's a very tall fake Target tree. Do you use a ladder or a Betty hat to put the star on top? xo

Flartus said...

Oh, you remind me of my mother when I was growing up. I remember her growling in her "no more messin' around" voice, "Get in here and decorate this tree NOW!"

Don't worry, I don't think you traumatized your kids too much. I mean, I can laugh about it now. (When Mom's not around, anyway...)

welcome to my world of poetry said...

I lov ed your post Betty, my husband used to enjoy decorating the tree but was not much good when it came to the lights.

Yvonne.

Madi and Mom said...

BB as always we are so pleased and happy to be amongst those who are lucky enough to share you very special posts and memories.....
Safe travels and we wish you tons of family fun,
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year,
Madi and Mom

faye said...

Fantastic .. I look forward to more
Christmas bloggery.

Stay safe and enjoy the holidays
as you make more wonderful memories.

Barbara said...

I hate to rain on anyone's parade..uh, snow on anyone's tree...but they make things to water trees with...and easier (cheaper) yet, go to local "big box" store and get a 3-4' length of pvc pipe, weave it down between the branches to the tree "container", and pour water from a pitcher into the top of the tube. Works GREAT!!! And to all a good night! P.S. I love your blog...read you daily!!!!

Cheeseboy said...

I think carving out your own traditions is just as important - - if not more so than keeping old traditions alive.

Patti Lacy said...

Pragmatic meets mushy--Betty, that's why this blog works so well.

A blessed holiday to you.

Patti

Pat Tillett said...

Great post BB! I don't want to force a carbon based tree to give it's life so we can celebrate spending too much money and eating too much...

It does mean I have one more potential fall off the ladder trying to pull it down from the garage rafters...

KleinsteMotte said...

We use the prelit version now too. This year we added some pine scent on a fragrance stick and now our noses can tell our tree's up. hehehe

Lin said...

I grew up with too many expectations and rules for the holidays and decorating that I have begun to hate it all. Because of that, I'm really relaxed about the whole process and if something doesn't get hung up or somebody isn't home for helping with the tree, so what?! I don't want them to resent it like I did with my mom being so rigid. It's the feeling and the fun and not how the darn thing is decorated. Good to keep perspective.

Miriam in KS said...

We finally replaced our "first" artifical tree (bought back in 1981) last year with another fake tree. This new tree is pre-lit. (I thought the old tree was still fine but I was informed it was getting "thin". I was trying to break the tree's 25 year lifetime expentancy by a few more years! Plus I really liked the way it went together.)

Our tradition has morphed into I go out and run errands and when I come back the tree is decorated! This year I fully intended to help my husband decorate. However, he had it done by the time I got home.

I guess I forgot to tell him to wait for me. ;)

slommler said...

I actually keep my artificial tree up all year long. I just decorate for the seasons. Fun!!
I too used to over do the Christmas spirit thingy...but have settled into a relaxed person. Who now decorates very lightly and doesn't blast the Christmas songs all day long. The family is appreciative!! Ha!!
Merry Christmas!
Hugs
SueAnn

Baby Sister said...

As much as I like the idea of real trees for Christmas, I'm starting to wonder if it's worth it in the end. My dad loves to go help pick out the tree...after that everyone drags their feet to get it all ready.
I'm glad you're making your own traditions though. :)