I’m an atheist, but I love all the pagan trimmings of Christmas. Holiday food and caroling are some of my best childhood memories.
In college, my roommate and I went all out decorating our dorm room.
Andy enjoyed the novelty for a few years. But after we moved to a smaller house with hardly any storage space, he began grumbling over my six boxes of holiday decorations. The cost of our first Noble Fir sent him into sticker shock.
And when I pointed out how all the pepper trees around our house would be perfect for a white light display like this?
Andy responded with, “Are you kidding me? It would take hours to put those up! Think of our electricity bill!”
He had a point. I settled for putting the Christmas tree in our big front window. It wasn’t exactly the festive arboreal display I had in mind, but I set the timer so the tree lit up just as the school kids arrived on my front steps and were awaiting pick up. (Some of them would cheer.)
There were years when I didn’t put up a tree at all, though. If we were traveling back to the East Coast, I worried that the untended tree would either burn up or the dogs would knock it down. And after Baby D was born? No one wanted to spend weeks guarding the tree from the terrifying toddler.
Andy liked those tree-less years.
Baby D, however, did not.
Baby D, like most kids, loved light displays. We were within walking distance of a “Christmas Lights” neighborhood that went all out every year (this is where I got my idea for white lights in the trees). There were houses with Santa’s workshops, houses with illuminated Ferris wheels, houses with enormous inflatables (sometimes in questionable poses).
“Why don’t we have lights like that?” five-year-old Dalton asked me. “We don’t even have a Christmas tree!”
“But there’s a Christmas tree at Nana and Granddad’s and that’s where we will be this Christmas,” I pointed out. “They actually have TWO trees, remember? One in the living room and one in the basement.”
“But my cousins all have Christmas trees when we go to their houses at Christmas.”
“Well, that’s because they are hosting us and home for Christmas.”
“Not true!” Dalton countered. “Auntie Lawyer’s house had one last year and then she drove with us to Auntie Doctor’s house!”
“Yes, but she was only gone a few days and we’re gone for at least a week.”
Dalton set his jaw and said, “I want a Christmas tree.”
“Me, too, buddy.”
“Then why don’t we have one?!”
I looked pointedly at Andy. Dalton followed my gaze. I could practically see the Christmas lightbulb go off over his head.
“You!” Dalton howled at his dad. “You’re the one who doesn’t want a tree! What is wrong with you?!”
Andy tried to defend himself; first by explaining the coast and hassle of getting a tree, and then physically when Dalton launched himself at his father.
Dalton fought valiantly, but the battle ended with him rolled up in a blanket, pinned under Andy’s superior mass.
Despite being muffled by fabric, Dalton’s voice was triumphant as he crowed, “Mom and me both want a tree! That’s two against one! We’re getting a tree!”
We did indeed get a tree that year. But that was just the first step in Dalton’s master plan.
Andy’s birthday is the last week in November. The following year, when I asked Dalton what present we should get Andy, his response was immediate: “Outdoor lights for the big Christmas tree.” (Our first Christmas in our little house, Andy and I got a live Monterrey pine tree and planted it in the backyard after the holiday. It grew over thirty feet tall. Dalton loved climbing it.)
Andy’s face fell when he opened his gifts that year: three giant rolls of big, bright, outdoor holiday lights.
Dalton laughed so hard he fell on the floor. As he rolled over to his father’s feet, he gasped, “Don’t…worry…Dad…I’ll…help…you…hang…them!”
Andy looked at me and said, “Did you put him up to this?”
“C’mon. I’d have gotten white lights, not those garish things. Do you see the size of those bulbs?!”
But I didn’t care. Not really. Not when I finally had an ally for holiday decorating.
No matter how questionable his taste.