Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Confessions of a Christmas Klutz

I’m Christmas-challenged, tinsel-impaired. Christmas lights tangle in my wake, eggnog sours. I choose gifts, not because they suit the recipient, but because they are easy to wrap. If you get a gift from me it will almost certainly be square.

My mother doesn’t understand my deficiency. Mistletoe is in her blood. Each year she relishes the search for the best-shaped tree, the tastiest oyster stew recipe, the bushiest poinsettia.

So how did she beget a daughter who considers white fudge Oreos to be Christmas cookies? Who briefly flirted with becoming a Buddhist just to get out of decorating her tree? Whose idea of creating a holiday mood is to spray spice-apple scented air freshener around the room?

It wouldn’t have been a problem if I’d born a boy. Christmas expectations for males are much more modest. Once they’ve wrestled the Christmas tree into the stand and dropped the turkey into the deep fryer, they can call it a season. The song isn’t titled, “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen” for nothing.

But as a female, I’m expected to be handy with holly, as adept as an elf. The pressure gets worse every year. People take Christmas decorating very seriously these days. In some neighborhoods the competition is so fierce that if you are unwilling to transform your yard into a holiday fairyland, you better move or have a menorah burning in your window.

For the last few years, my mother has taken pity on me and has started “helping” me with Christmas. It started small. A poinsettia left on my doorstep. A red ribbon on my mailbox.

With each season she’s “helped” me a little more. This year elaborate Victorian stockings hang from my fireplace; swags of garland and ribbon festoon the picket fence outside my house. Holly and berries drip from every surface, and my tree rivals Rockefeller Center’s in it seasonal splendor. What was my part in this year’s holiday extravaganza? I followed on my mother’s heels, holding the wire cutters.

All of the sudden I have one of the most festive houses on the block, and people are looking at me with new eyes. My husband has suggested that I wrap all the presents this year “ as I’m so good at that sort of thing.” A couple of friends have asked me to help with their own decorations since I have such a “flair.” My son (who should know better) even had the courage to ask for a Christmas present this year that wasn’t square.

“No,” I said in protest. “You don’t understand. This isn’t me. This is my mother’s handiwork."

“Oh, don’t be so modest!” they all said.

As for my mother, she’s already plotting Easter decorations.

“Honey, what would you think of an egg topiary for a centerpiece? And maybe a string of pastel lights? Don’t worry. I’ll be glad to help you.”


Augusta Scattergood said...

Oh, Karin, this is so true! I'm with you all the way. But I don't even have a relative willing to help. We are all tinsel impaired! Augusta

John Jeter said...

Oyster stew?!?! I'm coming to your house!!! ... Gah, you are funnnnneeee! If you ever get a chance to listen to The Foremen sing "Christmas Is Pain," that's almost as funny, too.

Karin Gillespie said...

I feel for you, Augusta. And thanks, John. I'll check out the Foreman. Sounds like the song is my kind of thing.

Margo said...

So funny! I can totally relate, especially to the heightend expectations. Growing up, my family always took Christmas and tradition very seriously, but the moms were kind of half a** about it in that they proudly served instant mashed potatoes and turkey cooked at the Country Club and served it all on on sparkly Wedgewood place settings. Place the Xmas tree in a new room or try to serve anything not out of a box or can and Grandma might just threaten to slit your throat after one too many scotches. I do everything from decorating to cooking differently each year, so no one goes expecting anything. I do, however, always make real mashed potatoes. I rely heavily on gift bags.

Rhonda Leigh Jones said...

We always just did the same thing every Christmas when I was a kid - tree in corner, electric candles in windows, cards taped to door frame. Easy. Simple.