Writer enjoys quick surprises and slow rewards

I can still remember the first ornament I was allowed to place on our family Christmas tree. I wasn’t very old, maybe four or five, and the ornament was a red silk-wrapped Styrofoam ball with a silver hook looped into one end. Under parental supervision, I was allowed to hang it gently from a branch of our plastic Christmas tree. And so began my holiday decorating history.

In the years to follow, I became a veritable composition expert. The smaller ornaments had to be nearer to the top, the larger ones on the bottom. No same colors could be near each other, and one had to take into account the plastic balls encircling the lights. Garland, if any, must be draped just so, and the tinsel couldn’t be too thick or clumpy. And I discovered a love for real, fresh trees.

About the time we moved here, the price of a fresh-cut tree was up around $50, which just seemed exorbitant and frivolous. So, in the interest of frugality, we started cutting down the junipers growing in our pasture. Hubs would load the kids up and go bouncing around the pasture in the pickup, coming home with the “perfect” tree. We’ve had all sorts, from one wider than it was tall, to one which easily topped out at ten feet (two of which was a spindly spike at the top). The greeny, peppery scent has come to mean Christmas in this home.

This year, like so many lately, Christmas seems to have crept up on us. We realized that, unless we got a tree NOW, we might not have time to put one up until Christmas Eve. Darling Hubs and I were both busy, so we tried something new. We gave Darling Daughter the keys to the pickup, gave Darling Son a hacksaw and loppers, and sent them out to the pasture with the mission of bringing back our Christmas tree.

From there, everything happened at warp speed. The kids were back with the tree in less than half an hour. Darling Son did some trimming before I ran him into town, and by the time we got back, Hubs and GirlChild had gotten the tree indoors, set up, and watered. I broke out the new LED seed lights and just had them put up when Darling Son informed me that it needed blue lights too. “Well, put ‘em on there,” I said, on my way to powder my nose. By the time I came out two minutes later, the lights were up and he was back at the table munching cereal. I know he can be pretty fast when he wants to be, but this had to be some new kind of record. And they didn’t look terrible either—they were spaced about as well as they could be on an already sparse juniper which had had the back half of its branches lopped off (in the interest of fitting into the corner, I’m told).

Darling Daughter came ambling through, almost as surprised as I had been at the light speed, as it were. She grabbed the silk poinsettias out of my hands. “Let me do that,” she said and proceeded to deftly rest them on each branch in mere moments. “Do you want to do the tinsel?” I asked. “No,” she said flatly. “No tinsel.”

The Girl had spoken. The tree was finished, in less than fifteen minutes, most of that being the time I spent faffing about the first string of lights. And it looks really good, for a juniper tree. I had someone tell me that it looked “ethereal,” which I thought was a lovely euphemism for “sparse.” But, the way I figure it, you get more bang for your buck lightwise, since you can see all of the lights all the way through the tree.

Little did I know a few short years ago, that when I relinquished the reins of Christmas Tree Control, that the kids would take over the whole operation. They showed real teamwork and efficiency. Their finished product is something to be proud of. And, they probably don’t know it, but they took loads of pressure off my shoulders. For all I sometimes think of them as my babies, they are maturing into pretty nifty young adults. Sure, we have some bumps in the road now and then, but thanks to caring friends, relatives, and teachers, I think we’ll get through.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you, Dear Readers. May you be blessed with sweet quick surprises and great slow rewards.

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