This story is for anyone who has ever felt holiday cheer diminished due to a sadistic strand of Christmas lights. Names have been changed to protect the wounded in this battle.
My friend’s home is a place that invites guests. Anytime you walk in, you’re encouraged to kick back and relax and to ignore the mess. By her definition a mess consists of two glasses in the sink and a velour blanket slightly askew on the back of the couch. So you must know that in the month of December, this is a home that would have a beautiful mantle draped in holly. This is a home that would radiate warm candles smelling of pumpkin pie spice. This is a home that would have a majestic Christmas tree with a thousand twinkling lights. But not this year. And not ever again. This is the year a few strands of Christmas lights would lead a full-blown assault and take down one of my friends. Her name is Deanne, and this is her story.
The 8 foot Frasier fir was going to fit perfectly in the niche she’d carved out. After decorating the tree itself and adding a skirt, they could fan out the presents in a lovely array for anyone who walked into the living room. Just thinking of all the hours they would spend nestled on the sofa this month while basking in the warmth of a myriad of tiny lights gave her a smile. She brought down the boxes of ornaments along with the carefully stowed container of lights and laid them out before her. Her five year old Mary Grace danced around her in anticipation of the jolly fat Santa’s who would hang from the tree and of the baby angels who would fly suspended from the branches. The time was 14:00.
Deanne began the methodical process of checking the lights. Only an imbecile would spend her time wrapping a tree in a set of untested lights, and Deanne is a girl savvy in the ways of the world. She arranged the first four strands on the floor since these were the heart and soul of the decorating process. These were the strands that would envelop the trunk with their radiance and project the feeling of goodwill to those around them. She checked each set individually and then together. She pressed against every tiny bulb to guard against last-minute deserters. She did everything except strip the wires and start afresh. She was now ready to wrap the tree.
The branches protested against this invasion by scratching her forearms. But gloves are bulky and hinder the finesse such a procedure requires, so Deanne endured the prickles along her flesh. After all, this portion, once done, would never again require her to submerge her hands into the piney depths. She persevered.
Just as she was nearing the top of the tree, a strand went out. Not the strand currently in her hands or even the strand closest to the bottom. No, the derelict strand in question was Set Two and would require a full disrobing of the tree. Not to mention that in spite of urgings to wait, Mary Grace had already added about a dozen ornaments to the branches within her reach. Hmm. Such a crossroads in the decorating endeavor. It seemed a shame to pull off all of those strands that she had woven so conscientiously around every inch of bark; so instead, she worked her hands into the deviant sector and began trying every little bulb. She peered into the branches and inspected each plastic tube, trying a replacement bulb at the least provocation, but the strand remained dark, an absolute blight against this venerable symbol of holiday cheer and charity. Nothing remained except to strip the tree and start again.
As soon as she unwound the last two coils from the base, a peculiar phenomenon occurred. Strand number two, as if ashamed of itself for dallying on the dark side, experienced a great awakening and showed the world its spiritual renewal through illumination. At this point a frustrated little sigh escaped the lips of Deanne, and she decided to test the validity of this newfound conversion as she whipped the strands around and shook them three times for good measure. But the 400 bulbs maintained their luminescent testimony, so Deanne shrugged and approached the tree again. The time was 15:30.
“Honey, Mommy needs you to wait until I get all the strands around the middle before you put any more ornaments on the tree.”
Mary Grace furrowed her brow at the delay. “How much longer, Mommy?”
“Not very long,” Deanne said, gingerly lifting a glittering reindeer from a branch for the second time, “but I need you to take all of these off.”
“Ok,” Mary Grace sighed and began to undo her handiwork. Poor kid. This was a tough break for someone’s first trimming of the tree.
Deanne tackled her task with gusto, ignoring the bites of pine needles as she once again began her campaign up the trunk of the tree. She was nearing the top with only a few loops remaining when strand number three went AWOL. This time the sharp intake of breath was so pronounced that she could have released enough pine over the next three days to function as a Renuzit. Deanne climbed off the step stool and backed away to regard the tree through narrowed eyes. She ran her hands through her short hair, which can only be classified as chic and sophisticated, and interlaced her fingers on top of her head.
Mary Grace sat up from the floor where she had been playing with Hershel the dog and two Christmas bears. “What’s wrong, Mommy?”
Deanne swallowed hard. “Mommy’s just having a little trouble with the lights. Don’t worry; we’ll get them figured out.”
“No ornaments yet?”
“Not just yet.” Mary Grace went back to her bears, and Hershel thumped his tail in solidarity.
Deanne eyed the tree and the gaping, black abyss in the center. She couldn’t leave the tree with its heart carved out. She simply had to get those lights working or the whole effect would be ruined. But she had to admit that as she approached that paragon of pine, she sensed something sinister in the bristles. Even the way the branches were angled seemed to be watching her as she climbed that ladder and placed the flayed flesh of her hands into its recesses. Down, down she wove until she finally reached the last coil of strand three, and just as she pulled the cords clear of the tree, the strand came to life in her hands.
Mother of God!
Deanne came off the step stool howling. She dropped that illuminated snake of lights and backed away from the tree pointing and yelling. At first everyone rushed in. Her husband Ted and the boys thought someone must be missing an appendage only to find Deanne with full use of her limbs throwing baby cherubs around the room while shouting something about an exorcism. The boys left after Emmett almost got pegged with a clothespin ornament fashioned back in ’07, Ted excused himself to take a very important call even though no one had heard the phone ring, and even Hershel the dog scurried out of the room wondering about openings at the pound. Only Mary Grace survived the blast, proving once again why XX chromosomes are chosen to bear the offspring.
When she was spent from yelling and had actually discovered how to blink again, Deanne knew it was time to step up her game. So far, she’d lost every skirmish and had enough scratches on her forearms to rival a pair of sunglasses buffed with a sand blaster. She needed emotional armor if she was to face this kind of combat, and she knew exactly where to find it.
Turn in next time for the foregone conclusion of one woman’s descent into holiday madness.
© 2012 – Traci Carver