In the blur of Halloween costumes and carving pumpkins, store aisles were already bursting their seams with Christmas trees, decorations, stocking stuffers … nd lights! But it’s month-by-holiday-month in our house and when the turkey and pies become history, the tree goes up.

The first order of business then is to haul out several small storage boxes brim full with snarls of white lights. After we get them untangled and organized, we lay out the strings of tiny lights across the living room floor and cross our fingers that they will all sparkle when they’re plugged in.

Of course, that doesn’t happen so we keep trying until we have enough lights in working order to begin weaving them into the branches of the tree. Inevitably, one string will go blank for some mysterious reason so experience has taught us that it’s always wise to have a spare on hand at least until the New Year’s Day Bowl games.

Through the years, we have learned to operate on overload to light and decorate the tree and the house. Weekends are best suited for this project if you expect a few hours of recovery and don’t forget to hang the wreath on the door with the kids’ old wooden sled tied with a red bow to stand alongside it. Oh, yes, and the doll house needs to be brought down from the attic. We have passed on that one a few times when time and energy grew thin.

We did decide a few years ago to eliminate the lengthy ornament stage of tree-trimming, I now put them all into two large bowls. They’re a hodge-podge of handmade trinkets, travel momentoes, dazzling gifts and keepsakes; a lifetime of treasures.

I should have thought of it long ago when a household pet had recklessly plunged into the tree branches pawing after the irresistibly shiny baubles. The tree didn’t quite make it and toppled over under the attack. Our dog eventually got bored and left it alone but one of the cats couldn’t restrain herself. After her first disastrous leap and forever after, the Christmas tree was behind a closed door in the family room. Or the cat was if we placed the tree in a different location.

In recent years as we have downsized, so has the tree. It’s on a table now and there is no dog or cat to terrorize it. But the lights still shine brightly and the bowls or ornaments fascinate the family’s next generations. Now I ask them to take a favorite or two every year to adorn their own trees amid their gathering keepsakes. Some even put them in bowls under the tree if they have pets or toddlers and don’t have a convenient door to close.

But I’m getting ahead of myself as there is a pumpkin at the front door now with a wreath of fall leaves to herald the current holiday. Our lives are timed so that the day after the overstuffing meal to celebrate Thanksgiving, I will have a cup of tea and maybe a nap before I tackle the parade of boxes to shift our holiday trimmings.

On second thought, maybe I’ll just have another cup of tea.   

Janice Kimes sketches the domestic cartoon of life with its inevitable calamities, delights and vigor. She and her family enjoy their seasonal Aitkin County cabin.

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