That magical time every year when friends and family gather to cut down and decorate a young coniferous tree, eat all kinds of sugar-laden treats and fat- saturated meals, and grown adults break into open fistfights in an attempt to perpetuate the spirit of giving supported by the retail industry and making sure their kids have the newest and greatest toys in the world. For many, the idea of spending large amounts of time with friends and family is enough to make anybody want to shotgun a half-gallon of sweet, thick, Bacardi- laced eggnog in an effort to make the inevitable confrontations between family members that much easier to deal with.
OK, I’m done being cynical for a moment.
I know that after my recent entry talking about how terrible things were going at work and my complete lack of a personal life, a lot of friends expressed their concerns for my wellbeing, along with a lot of personal testimonials on the wonders of modern-day pharmaceuticals to help brighten up those dark times that we all go through (some more than others, I know). Thankfully, just when it felt like I’d hit rock bottom, as is often the case, I had a bit of help from the most unlikely of outside sources.
It was a Saturday night about 3 weeks ago, and I got home late- as usual- to find that Kayla was busily puttering around the house, Christmas music blazing from her laptop’s perch on the kitchen counter, the tiny Christmas tree in the living room was already glowing blue, white, and green, and I could smell the previously mentioned sugar- laden treats in the oven baking. As soon as I came into the house, still in uniform, physically and emotionally drained from a long day, the expression on her face brightened.
“Oh good Ted, you’re home just in time! I could use some help figuring out how to hang the lights on the balcony, and I found a couple of strands that Ron left in his room when he moved!”
Who was I to say anything? Before I could even think about it, I could begin to feel my mood improve. The hot neighbor girls upstairs had set up their decorations the weekend before, and I could feel my competitive spirit starting to come back as I chuckled and went to help Kayla hang the lights. You see, Christmas time has always been one of my favorite times of year. As much as I may dislike having to fly up to Bath and freeze my ass off for a week or two (and just dislike Bath in general- sorry Laura and Nora), there’s no way I would ever want to miss spending the celebration of the birth of Christ with my family. As a matter of fact, the loneliest I’ve ever felt in my entire life was Christmas 2002, when I wasn’t able to go home, or even take leave, because of the testing schedule Reactor Department was on to ensure that we went critical in both reactors on time. As a matter of fact, for some reason that year the Supply folks decided that traditional Christmasy foods were overrated and instead served a meal that would give any Filipino a hardon. After eating Pork Adobo and Lumpia (among other things I couldn’t even recognize), I went down to take the watch for my 4 hour shift before our crew was relieved- and immediately realized that something wasn’t quite right in my body. I spent the next 4 hours running back and forth to the head at least twice an hour, before puking my brains half an hour before watch relief. I went home, crawled in bed, and didn’t move for the next three days after that, not even to call my folks, who were kinda pissed, as I’m sure you can imagine.
But I digress- shit, I don’t even remember now why I brought that story up again. Anyway, back to putting up Christmas decorations.
So sometimes it’s kinda cool having a girl roommate in the house, even if she doesn’t cook very often, hates doing dishes, and still hasn’t learned that when the other guys and I are watching football on the weekends, she should remember to ask us if we need another beer any time she walks into the living room (just kidding- really!). So in spite of her glaring shortcomings, there were some good things that came with having her in the house anyway. Walking in after a long, terribly painful last several months and seeing her setting up Chirstmas decorations was definitely one of those good things. As I fought with the strings of snowflake- shaped lights for the balcony and spending an hour or two after that perched precariously on a stepladder hanging more lights on the posts and railings of the patio outside my room, I could feel a huge load lifted off my shoulders. I actually felt a small grin tugging at the corners of my lips, and it wasn’t long before I was chuckling to myself as I fought with a hammer, molding nails, and twisted, tangled strings of lights in an attempt to out-do my neighbors. As a matter of fact, just as I was finishing up hanging the lights and getting ready to plug in the whole assembly for the first time, Maria stepped out on the balcony, saw what I was doing, and immediately accused me of trying to copy what she and her roommates had already set up the week before us. Of course, I pointed out that while they may have had their decorations up first, ours were MUCH better. Now, while this is still a point of contention between us (their tree looks like they got it from the top floor of the Hustler Store- it’s covered with pink and purple ornaments), I have to admit (privately, of course), that with the exception of the tree, they do have better decorations than we do. But, as I told Amanda last night as I was getting ready to leave for the airport for the flight back to the East Coast, it’s going to be on like Donkey Kong next year. Besides, it wouldn’t look very good to go and get beat by a bunch of girls, now would it?