Monday, December 09, 2013

Aggressive Holiday Decorating

(with illustrations)

It seems the Linguinis have a holiday tradition I've only just noticed. I don't know how I missed this, but the Heirs have determined (when they think I can't hear them) that I'm becoming a senile old bat who can't remember from one year to the next.

I enter the holiday season crankily complaining about too much Christmas too soon. I gripe about having to muster the amount of enthusiasm equal to the maniacal blinking lights, screaming commercials and nauseating made-for-HallmarkTV movies. I go out of my way to avoid those crazed tinsel-bedecked maniacs who have their shopping done by the first week of December and spend the days up to Christmas announcing what cookie they baked or what craft they manifested in front of their fireplace each day.

I assuage the depth of my angst by writing blog posts that try to either temper some of the excesses of the season or encourage others like me to just say, "heck with it" and spend December snorking down cans of Redi-Whip and reading Jane Austen (not that I...ever...did...DON'T JUDGE ME!).

That's only half of the tradition. The other half is that a week into December, Heir 1 comes along and drags me, kicking and screaming, into the holiday season.

And so, having read my post of last week where I extoled the virtue of moderation in holiday decor, Heir 1 showed up recently to not only to spew holiday cheer all over us, but to make sure that when he did, it was as tacky and unrelentingly tasteless as he could possible conjure out of a quarter-century's worth of accumulated Yuletide debris.

Heir 1: (pulling a mouse-eaten ribbon out of a box) Oh, yeah!

Me: Just throw it out.

Heir 1: Oh...It's going up!

An hour later, Heir 1 calls me in to observe his handiwork.

Me: It looks like Santa Claus threw up all over the bannister.

Heir 1: That's what you get for keeping every piece of red and green crap Joe and I ever threw together. I mean, seriously...

Holds up this:

Heir 1: You will literally hang onto anything.

Heir 1 suddenly gets a bright idea and picks the empty tea candle containers out of two votive cups.

Heir 1: (a minute or so later) Here! I made this! Now you have to hang it up!

Me: I think there is a statute of limitations on how long you have to hang up your kids' creations.

 We stand and observe the overall effect of Heir 1's artistry.

Me: People are going to think it's just tacky decorating. I'm not sure my friends will see the irony.

Heir 1: (patting my on the shoulder) Mom...oh, Mom... (I think he is about to lecture me on intellectual snobbishness) You know you don't have any friends.

Monday, December 02, 2013

On decking halls

...or hovels...

It’s that time of year again; time for my annual Christmas decorating guilt.

I’m not big on decking my halls beyond recognition, mostly because I don’t want to invest the hours it takes to put them up, maintain them and, worst of all, take them down. There is nothing more depressing than taking down Christmas decorations, which is another reason God put Dirtman into my life. Dirtman can’t wait to yank down that annoying tree that puts a glare on the television.

Yet I always wonder if my family would like for one year to be dazzled by thousands of flashing lights and maniacally jolly snowmen. Perhaps they would enjoy those blinking red lights on a plastic Christmas tree that plays 26 Christmas carols over and over with that metallic clinking that is supposed to be a computerized version of bells but sounds more like icicles scraping on a blackboard and gets into your head, waking you up because it’s infiltrated your sleep with nightmares of being rendered deaf by a psycho Quasimodo dressed in a red velvet suit with white fur trim. Because we Linguinis tend to be heavy on Stephen King in our To-Be-Read pile.

As the holiday season progresses, though, I know I will be tempted at every turn by marketers determined to have my home bedecked in Christmas spirit, right down to a Santa face toilet seat cover. But I’ve developed a strategy for preventing myself from making a fatal holiday d├ęcor purchase I will later regret. I envision the same item thrown on the bargain table on December 26th along with masses of other useless red and green detritus. It doesn’t look quite as enticing, even priced 75 percent off.

I’m not entirely a Scrooge. We have a tree with lights and ornaments. The ornaments are pretty old and some quite ratty-looking. When Topper, our male Australian Shepherd, was a puppy, he had a particular fondness for teething on a white unicorn ornament (give me a break -- I was 19). But you can still make out that it’s some sort of a horse-like creature and there is even the suggestion of a golden horn left on its head. A stranger may not know what it is hanging there, but we do, so the unicorn stays ... along with the miniature rubber plucked chicken with the holly around its neck that Dirtman insists we keep since he was a poultry science major in college, making him a good person to call if you have a chicken problem, but not exactly an expert on Yuletide decor'.

I want to add that one ornament we don’t have on our tree is one of those pickles that catalogs tout as “an old German/Dutch/Danish tradition,” but that I suspect was a wicked marketing joke by someone stuck with thousands of glass pickles they had to unload in a hurry. Or maybe some Madison Avenue dare: find the most unlikely thing to make an ornament out of and trying to get the gullible public to find it a necessity. Anyway, no pickle at the Jackson house.

Oh...also, my decorating does not extend to my person. So my ears will not jingle and my hat will not blink.

In addition, the reason why my animals love me is because I never once forced them to have their pictures taken dressed as Santa Claus or with reindeer antlers (even though our Parson Russell Terrier, Gaspode, would make an ideal Max from How the Grinch Stole Christmas). I hope when I am old and my kids stash me in a nursing home somewhere, caregivers will afford me the same dignity.

So, as in all things, I try to practice moderation in my holiday decorating. Candles in the windows, wreath on the door. No fake Santas clinging to my roof, no plastic Saviors being watched over by a glowing Mary and Joseph, no fake icicles hanging inexplicably from my sheltered front window.

But there are some pretty spectacular houses out there and, as the actual holiday draws near, I always have the urge to do more and more. Perhaps an electrified reindeer or two! Or how about giant fake candles flanking the driveway! BLOW UP SNOW GLOBE DISNEY CHARACTERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111

It’s amazing how taste flies out the window in the presence of the pervading smell of bayberry.