My wife and I tend to agree on most of the big issues facing the world today--one of the consequences of being married for forty years, I guess--but there's one particularly divisive issue that we've never been able to see eye-to-eye about. This issue rears its ugly head every year at this time, and every year my wife and I are faced with the dilemma of knowing that we're in completely opposite camps. Our disagreements have never led to outright hostility, but there remains an undercurrent of unease that runs through our house during the season. We both realize that there's no possible right answer to this philosophically difficult question, but that doesn't mean that each of us doesn't believe we're right and that the other is hopelessly wrong and out of touch with reality.
The question then, the million dollar question, the question that has plagued millions of Americans for decades, is this: When should you decorate the house for Christmas, before Thanksgiving or after?
I know this is a contentious issue for everyone and actually, once upon a time, my wife and I WERE in complete agreement about this. It may seem impossible to believe now, but back in the Dark Ages--before 1980, say--the prevailing wisdom was that Christmas decorations should never be put up before Thanksgiving. In fact, it was generally considered inappropriate to put any decorations up before December. Now again, I recognize that this was a million years ago, but back then, my wife and I both sort of agreed with this notion. Some years, we waited until the very week before Christmas to actually put up the tree and the outdoor lights.
Of course, if you did that today you'd be branded a Scrooge and become the scourge of the neighborhood. And gradually, over time, I started to notice that our decorations were being put up earlier and earlier in the season. My wife would start getting the ornaments and lights out after Thanksgiving, and we'd usually spend the Black Friday weekend getting the house prettied up for the holidays. I didn't say anything about this gradual change--my wife still rules the house, after all--but if I had my druthers I'd like to wait until December before getting everything out. Sometimes it just seems more special to wait for the actual advent season. But I didn't say a word.
Until about five years ago, that is. For that's when my wife started pushing the Christmas decorating to the days BEFORE Thanksgiving. "Well, the kids are going to be here on Thursday, don't you want to have the house pretty and decorated when they show up?" she would say.
"Pretty, yes. Clean, yes. Decorated? No."
But she waved me off, and continued to decorate. And I gradually accepted that the Christmas season in our house would now begin on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and that there was little chance that I could change the course of this holiday evolution. It wasn't what I wanted, but as I've learned before, compromise is one of the cornerstones of a successful marriage. Especially when I'm the one doing the compromising.
But if you give somebody an inch. . . well, you know the rest.
Last year, TWO DAYS after Halloween, my wife had the Holiday CD playing on our ancient CD player and she was looking at Christmas catalogs. She very casually got up from the kitchen table and began walking toward the garage where our Christmas storage boxes are kept before I stopped her.
"Don't even think about it," I said.
"You know what. Go back to your seat. There's nothing to see in the garage. Nothing at all."
She scowled at me, but relented. And I could hear her whisper "Scrooge" under her breath as she returned to her coffee at the kitchen table. But she didn't attempt any more early decorating. Chalk one up for the old man! I told her, patiently, that she shouldn't call me Scrooge because everybody knows that "A Christmas Carol" is a Christmas story, not a first-week-of-November story. "Thank you very much, Charles Dickens," she said, and stuck her tongue out at me. Guess I should expect a bag of coal under the Christmas tree this year with my name on it.
Until next time,