Ok all you young folks out there, we are going to review some of the most serious threats to any marriage–putting up the Christmas tree and its decorations! Naturally figuring out and compromising over and over again how to raise the kiddos is a huge challenge in any marriage but those Christmas trees and the decorations I belieeve rate right up there with the most daunting of issues facing a young marriage.
When my wife and I married we were both very young, only 19. She was working full time at a defense contractor and going to school part time and I was attending school full time and working part time. Like many young marrieds we moved into a tiny one bedroom apartment half way between her work and my school. We had only been married 6 months when our first Christmas arrived. The apartment barely had room for a table to eat on across from the kitchen which was about twice the size of the typical restroom they have on the planes. From there you stolled into a living room area. (It took all of about two steps). You get the picture; this was a small place with ceilings that were only 71/2 feet tall. My beautiful young bride wanted to set up our place for Christmas and I was all enthusiastic about it also. Heck, I loved Christmas and the seaon. Little did I know what I was getting into and just how big the differences were between the men from Mars and the ladies from Venus .
So off we go. We had nothing in the way of decorations of course since this was our first Christmas. My folks gave us some and so did her folks, but that was only a few small items. My first shock was the price of those things. You can just imagine the budget we were on. Between a car payment and the tuition for college, rent and some food we normally didn’t have two nickles to rub together but we had each other. I thought we would spend maybe 20 bucks on stuff. Whoa, what an idiot. She started toting up the things we just “had to have” and that budget of mine was slapped aside like chump change. So we had all the basics more or less and now on to the big deal of picking the tree. I was already shell shocked at this point but was hopeful I could regain some lost advantage on the size and cost of the tree.
We go to the tree lot and start looking. Right away I knew I was in trouble because she is over on the aisle with big trees that cost 3 times as much as I thought we should spend. These were big trees, in the 8 to 10 foot range. But at first I still wasn’t too worried because I had facts and logic on my side by pointing out that they were all too big. They were too tall and too wide. They were taller than our ceiling and so wide you wouldn’t be able to move between the table and the living area and would barely be able to even open the door to the place. Clearly, I didn’t get the big picture. She explained over and over that the smaller trees weren’t full enough and weren’t shaped as well as the larger ones. Looks are everything to a woman when buying any item. My mom for instance to this day when she buys a car the first thing she chooses is the color; everything else is incidental to her. My arguments about the tree being too big fell on deaf and pouty ears. She was sure we could figure out how to make it work. So, on top of our little VW beetle we loaded a 9 foot tree and somehow made it back to the apartment.
I managed to get it inside. It had one of those old fashioned wooden stands attached to it. Those things never get the tree straight if they are more than 4 feet tall. Of course that was a minor problem compared with the fact that sure enough I couldn’t even stand it upright because it was too high by more than a foot. Being newly weds we had a very limited tool supply. A hammer, few nails, pliers, screwdriver, etc and that was it. I was not about to call my dad and ask to borrow tools to put up a Christmas tree. I would have been too embarrassed. I mean what kind of guy can’t get and put up his own damn tree. I had no saw. So I leaned it over and got a butcher knife from the kitchen and used the hammer to pound through the top portion of the tree to make it short enough to at least get under the ceiling. All the time I am doing this the little lady is telling me to be careful because I am destroying the tree and tearing up the prettiest branches. I really did try but I kept getting more angry with the whole situation. It wasn’t a tree anymore but the damn tree!
We finally get it upright and then spend at least an hour trying to get it even and level so it looked good. It was too big for that wooden stand and kept tilting. Finally we had it there–tata! Then the decocrations go on. I always thought you just grabbed and put them on, but no, it is an artistic endeavor. Decorating to the ladies requires the skill of Da Vinci. It took forever. By now we had spent the entire afternoon and late into the evening getting a tree and putting it up. After we finally get all the decorations on and it and it is more or less upright we pull back to admire our work (or at least she did, I was just glad to be done with it at that point). We walked around to the kitchen to finally begin something for dinner (or more aptly a midnight snack). Kaboom, the entire tree fell over with everything on it. That was it. I was not going to be beaten by a damn tree nor intimidated by the bride anymore. I got out the hammer and nails and nailed that sucker to the floor right through the carpet and everything much too the dismay and constant complaint of the lady of the house. She was sure we could get it right if we merely started over again. Ha, no way in hell was I going to go through that torture again. So it is up and still leaning. The last problem was solved by taking some coathanger wire and I wired the top of the tree to the curtain rod beside it and made it stand straight.
If I remember right we went to bed after that without eating. I wasn’t hungry anymore and she wasn’t in the mood. I had abused her tree and didn’t have the right Christmas spirit according to her. So all you fellows out there pay heed to this cautionary tale. Just saddle up when it is time to do the Christmas thing and let the horse have its lead and take you where it wants to go. You are going to end up there whether you like it or not. The Christmas tree and decorations are their domain and just accept that you are a serf toiling at the pleasure of the lady of the manor. I have survived this ritual for over 46 years but learned to fade into the background even more with the passing years and allow the master to execute her intricate designs with minimal input from Dagwood.