Friday, November 4, 2011

The Living Christmas Tree Is Long Dead, But Not Our Marriage

The following account was written by my husband and I for a family Chirstmas memory book 14 years ago. Honestly, it offers a lot of insight into our marriage in the beginning years.

Kara's version:
It was going to be a wonderful Christmas. It was our first official Christmas in our very first home as a married couple. I couldn't wait to start putting up decorations and filling our little house with holiday cheer. I had visions of sparkling lights hanging from the rooftop, luminaries lighting the entranceway and a majestic tree adorning our front room. As I stood outside staring at the front of our house one December afternoon I contemplated my strategy.

I need a theme, I thought to myself. Something traditional, yet unique. No icicle dripping lights for us; besides the stores have been out of them since before Thanksgiving. I'm thinking white lights strung across the roofline, no mixing & matching, just plain white lights. Maybe some lights on the bushes as well. Then some pine boughs encircling our front windowpanes with a few velvet bows to tie it off. Nothing flashy, nothing plastic, just simple. Possibly a spotlight to shine on the wreath that will hang on the front door. Luminaries would be nice, but I couldn't use plastic ones and the paper bag ones might not weather the next couple of weeks. Guess I'll skip that.

I was thinking of all the Christmas themes my Mom had done over the years. Her decorations were tasteful, unique, and catching to the eye. She used real luminaries, fresh pine boughs, etc. She was always ahead of her time in the decorating area. Bless my Dad for trying to untangle the lights each year. The neighborhood was well aware of our lights going up when my Dad's shouts of frustration echoed down the street. Speaking of men and lights, I needed to enlist the help of my husband. Oh, I could do it myself, but it would be more fun to involve WB. I caught a glimpse of him putzing around inside the garage as I contemplated my game plan.

"Let’s put up Christmas lights!" I yell to my husband who suddenly disappears around the corner of the garage. When he reappears and walks toward me I can tell he does not think my idea sounds like fun.
"Okay, here's the plan." I begin to tell him all my ideas and ask for his input.
I've learned that this is important in marriage.

He takes a deep breath, looks me in the eye and says, "Go for it!" and starts to walk away.

"Whoa, you don't expect me to do this on my own?” Again, the look. Quickly, I rethink my strategy and grab his hand. “But you are a genius with electricity," I smile sweetly.

This, I've learned in a year of marriage, is called stroking his ego
I plow ahead. I’ve learned to talk fast and with purpose, so I don’t lose his attention, "Why don't you get the lights and I'll work on the windows. And what about a spotlight; we don't have one."
Reluctantly WB turns from me and with shaking head climbs up into the attic to dig out the lights we had bought earlier. I settle for manufactured pine boughs bought at Wal-Mart. This distresses me, but WB assures me it looks natural as I wrap the long strands around the windows.

After quite some time the lights seem to be hung. I’m not crazy about the bright orange extension cord that hangs from the edge of the roof to the ground by the garage, but again WB assures me that no one will notice it, especially at night.

I had been unsuccessful in explaining the concept of a spotlight to my husband. This is very frustrating to me because I don't think it is a difficult concept to grasp. I try to explain to my husband for the hundredth time, "It's just a big bulb on a stake stuck in the yard and you plug it in!"

"What's it connected to? How does it light up?" he asks again
"Oh, geez, it's a light! A light you shine on things."

Why was he making it so complicated? My parents had two in their front yard and for the next week I frantically search the neighborhoods for some to show to him. He draws plans to rig an elaborate electrical system in our front yard and I just want a tiny, spotlight on my door. I finally give up and decide that the porch light will do.

Finally, it’s time for the Christmas tree. I'm not sure who first mentioned the idea of a living tree, but we ran with it. We found a nice Norfolk pine about 3 feet high that we can sit on top of a table by our window in the front room. I tell WB it is perfect. Small and young, but that we will have it for years to come and each Christmas it will grow and flourish just like us. It was a symbol of our marriage and all the Christmases we would share. I envision ten years into the future a six-foot tall tree surrounded by our children and I'd tell them, "Your Dad and I got this tree on our first Christmas together and it has grown taller and stronger each year." It was the perfect last touch to our Christmas decorations.

WB’s version:
It was going to be our first Christmas in our first home as a married couple. Kara had big plans for decorating, and set about trying to implement those plans. Kara spoke of visions of luminaries, simple white lights strung all along the roofline and bushes, pine boughs, velvet bows and a majestic tree in our front room. One lesson that I have come to learn in our marriage is that when Kara does the planning, Scott gets to do the implementing.

I asked her, "What about the lighted plastic snowman, where will he go? And the plastic Santa, and the lighted plastic candles? Should we put those on the porch or in front of the bushes?" I smiled inwardly as Kara glared at me.

Kara then said that we would need a spotlight. After looking over the front of the house, I realized that there were no electrical outlets. Not one to be bothered by minor logistical impediments, Kara continued on with explaining how the spotlight would herald the spirit of Christmas at our house in Pampa. I made the mistake of asking, "What would the light shine on?"
 Exasperated, Kara replied, "Our front door!"
 I pondered the architectural implications of highlighting our otherwise uninspiring front door, but I still remained puzzled as to what the spotlight had to do with Christmas. I could understand putting a spotlight on the chimney, or setting some spotlights out front like those seen at movie premiers so that Santa wouldn't miss the house, but I thought that the porch did an adequate job of lighting the front door.

After a thorough evaluation of the electrical demands of Kara's planned Christmas decorations, we settled on a string of white lights across the front roofline. Of course, I had to run an extension cord from the garage to provide power for the lights, which meant that during the day I had to remove the unsightly orange cord and replace it at dusk.

Our thoughts turned to the interior decorations, and most importantly, the tree. We both decided that a living Christmas tree would be both a nice economical and sentimental touch to our first Christmas. We bought a small Norfolk pine and set it on a table in our front room. Each year, the tree would grow and mark the passage of time as we would decorate it for Christmas. We envisioned that our children would help us decorate the very same tree. Best of all, we wouldn't have to spend any more money on Christmas trees!

Christmas came and Kara and I shared a wonderful holiday in our new home. However, six months later, the Norfolk pine had died, and Kara was already making plans for the holiday decorations, plans that included two spotlights; one red and one green.

Kara’s response ( and the last word, as usual)
As I remember it, we were at the hardware store and we finally found the elusive spotlights. The single spotlight wasn’t quite elaborate enough, so WB insisted on the double one and he also chose the bulbs! It looks good on my front door, but not as good as it will look on the new front door that he will install for me next year!

Do you and your spouse have differing opinions on decorating for the holidays? And has anyone out there had a live Chirstmas tree, and managed to keep it alive?


August McLaughlin said...

Ha ha... I love the he said/she said! Such a fun, personal post.

Your blog theme is beautiful and your log line, terrific. Thanks, Kara!

Tim L O'Brien said...

Great post Kara. I also enjoyed the story from both perspectives. I got a chuckle from your husband's viewpoint and could completely identify with what he was going through. When it comes to decorating for the holidays I have learned to just let my wife have her way with it. Somewhere in the attic I have a box of misfit decorations that she defines as tacky. I still love my red chili pepper lights that decorated my Christmas tree for so many years before we met. One day I will sneak them onto the tree again!

Jennifer Shirk said...

That was so cute!

YES, the hubby and I definitely have differing opinions. I want a white lighted Christmas tree with fancy ribbons and bows. He wants ginormous (AKA large obnoxious) colored lights with any old slop thrown on the tree. LOL!
Somehow we meet in the middle every Christmas. :-)

Kecia Adams said...

Hey, Kara! Loved this...brought back memories. I always tended to get tangled in my dreams of what COULD be in terms of Christmas decoration. Over the years, and 12 moves in 18 years, I have learned to accept what IS. Fortunately, my two daughters now help a great deal. My husband loves the RESULT of decorating for Christmas but is not much seen during the implementation.

Julie Hedlund said...

As this post illustrates, I think often times we assume the other person just "gets" things the same way we do. That is very seldom the case. :-)

Starting Christmas traditions as a couple is a big step in a marriage. Thanks for sharing your story.

Nancy said...

Our visions and what we end up with are often very different. How great that your husband helps with the decorations.

My husband used to go out with me and find the perfect live tree. Now, he gets a replacement artificial tree about once every 15 years. That's it. I'm a little "Santa" doing the rest. But I love it.

Jessica Nelson said...

Oh my, this is hilarious!!! LOL I love that your version is so full of personal things from your childhood, emotions, etc. His is very practical and funny. Not emotional at all, but kind of amused.
Really cute!
At my house, there would be nothing if I didn't do it. I go out and get the tree, put it up and the kiddos try to help me decorate it. Then my hubs comes home and tells me the tree is crooked. *grin* I tell him that he's a scrooge. LOL

Kara said...

Thanks everyone for the comment.Jessica, you hit the nail on the head. I tend to be very emotional about things and my husband is so very practical:)
It is amazing how our decorating vision and what are end result is can be so different.

Anonymous said...

Too funny. All those first year of marriage wisdom. How brilliant we thought we were and how we understood our partners.