Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Darn Christmas Tree

Six years ago, my preschool-aged son fell into our artificial Christmas tree and destroyed it.  My daughter and I put several blankets around the base and propped the larger boxes of presents around it so it wouldn't lean or tip over.  It was pathetic.

The next year, still single, I bought a new tree, the pre-lit kind before everyone found out that the pre-lit trees are horrible with lights that only work the first year.  It was genius, I thought and was a bargain at only $100.  My kids wanted me to get a fresh tree, a real one, but my allergies and fear of fire said no. 

The second Christmas of the pre-lit tree with the inevitable light bulb fiasco was dealt with by my new husband, who now is not so new.  He happily replaced a thousand light bulbs, finally found the trick to getting them all to work and eventually, at least a full week after the pathetic, half-lit tree was taken out of the box, it worked.  And the tree sat for a full week into January mocking me.

The next year and every subsequent year until now, the story has repeated itself, with less happiness (after all the marriage isn't as new), more under the breath cussing, and a longer delay in figuring out the trick from the previous year.  This year the memory of the solution was gone, absolutely vanished.  After replacing nearly all the bulbs, my husband didn't quit.  I did.  I suggested cutting the f****ing lights off the tree.  I immediately remembered my ex-husband's repeated minor electrocutions and said, "Unplug it first!" with a smile.

Apparently, my solution, while frugal, was ridiculously difficult.  The lights were wrapped around and also attached to the branches.  To do the job, they also had to move the branches that I had delicately spread out to perfection.  It took two days for my husband and older son to remove the lights.  In the meantime, my baby repeatedly yelled at me, "Turn it on!" while the tree sat in our living room mocking me. 

Once the lights were removed from the tree, my husband had the idea to use the indoor/outdoor lights he had purchased for outside decorations that he clearly will never find the time to put up.  (If you are reading this, honey, please don't take this as a challenge.  It's too late and too icy.)  The lights were large LED bulbs.  He and my son loaded the tree with them and turned them on.  I got an instant migraine as the lights embedded themselves in my eyes forever. 

My sweet husband went to the store in the frigid cold and got more LED lights with smaller bulbs.  He saw them on a tree in the store, and they looked OK to him and probably would look OK to you, but am really photosensitive (if that's the word) and have been having migraine issues this week.  They were not OK.  He took them off and sweetly offered to go search every store in the area for other bulbs, regular bulbs like the kind that was on the tree originally, the ones that only work for one year but don't blind me.

Today as the tree mocked me with its pushed in branches and complete lack of light, I couldn't take it anymore.  I separated each branch again, this time not as carefully.  Then I put the lights on the tree - the smaller LED bulbs - and pushed them closer to the center of the tree, away from the edges, hoping that would help especially when and if we put the ornaments on the tree.  When we turned the tree on, my sons were so happy and I was once again blinded.  I mentally decided to avert my eyes and not look at it, but obviously it didn't work - I can still see the impression of the lights as I look at my computer screen as if my vision has been branded with it. 

Finally after over a week of messing around with lights, we could put ornaments on the tree! I emailed my teacher to let her know I wouldn't be at writing class because I really want to spend this evening with my kids.  My big kids had homework and kept ignoring my requests to do it - one is sulking right now with math homework in hand quite likely still on the first problem.  My other is in the shower and likely will not join us for two hours, as is the nightly procedure. The baby didn't nap and is right at this moment whining, "Turn it on, turn it on, turn it on, turn it on,....turn it on, etc." (maybe about the tree) to my husband who apparently isn't turning it on and isn't leaving the room with him so he will forget whatever it is that is turned off.

I am disappointed this Christmas but hope it gets better.  I had all my Christmas shopping done early and am tired of the boxes upon boxes of wrapped presents stacked next to the laundry hamper in my bedroom waiting for a tree to sit under. I wanted to make ten different kinds of cookies for friends and families, all to be wrapped in cute packages to make everyone happy, as much as a cookie can.  Now I am not feeling up to making cookies either because of some medical issues.  I am not that excited about our annual trip to buy special ornaments, one for each kid like we do every year, since my husband will need to do it instead of me. 

I fear our tree is going to be a place of constant power-struggle with my two year old and wonder how long it will take before he rips open presents or starts collecting ornaments when I turn my head for a minute - all it takes is a minute, maybe just a split second.  We have a song from last year that my older son and I sang tonight to my toddler.  Sing it in your mind, or out loud to the melody of Oh Christmas Tree:

Oh Christmas Tree
Oh Christmas Tree
I really, really love you.
Oh Christmas Tree
Oh Christmas Tree
I really want to touch you
But Mommy Says
I will get hurt
If I try to hug you....

It goes on but you get the gist.  Last year, he was obsessed with the lights.  This year, he seems to be obsessed with testing limits, which I realize is normal and healthy, but makes me want to put a big fence around the tree, except he would get a stool and climb over it.

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