Putting up the Christmas tree is such a pain in the neck — and the back.
But watching it go up? That’s something that pains and warms my heart.
We managed to hold off putting up the Christmas tree and our assorted decorations until Friday. Usually they go up the day after Thanksgiving, adding a little red and green to Black Friday, but we postponed it with the early Thanksgiving holiday. We convinced our children we wouldn’t put them up until near the start of Advent.
I’ve learned to dread that day, particularly the physical pain of it. About a decade ago, we “wised up” and picked up these large boxes, measuring 3 1/2 feet long by 2 feet wide and nearly 2 feet deep. They’re perfect for storing all the miscellaneous ornaments and knickknacks that go with the holiday season.
Like most men, I’d rather work really hard for a few minutes than carry a lighter load more times. These boxes end up weighing 50 to 75 pounds apiece, something that seems to bother me a little bit more every year when I’m carrying them up the steps from their summer home (and fall and spring home) in our basement. My older daughters mean well and offer to carry them, but experience shows the shape and bulk of these boxes makes it hard for them to help.
That pain in my back and legs is often all I can remember when we talk about putting up decorations. My children remember a festive, joyous time of decorating with Christmas music playing in the background. I remember a grueling trip up and down the stairs a few times.
And what’s the rush? Everyone wants to get them put up so early that they tire of them long before the Epiphany on Jan. 6. That is, by the way, why there are 12 days of Christmas.
As you can tell, the whole thing makes me a little Grinch-ish. But by the time I’m done dragging the boxes up and setting up our artificial tree, the children in my house always thaw my heart.
This year, we have two foster children who weren’t here with us last year, to go with our three natural children. We let the children hang ornaments on the tree, and they always prefer the handmade ones made at schools and day cares. Sometimes our tree looks a bit like a calendar, full of names and dates on the back of these works of art.
Not all the memories are great, but they’re part of our tradition. It’s a little sad to see the ornaments made by the foster children from last year, but we’re happy they’re back with their family now. Some of the ornaments from the childhoods of my wife and I bring back bittersweet. The same holds true when I see the one my oldest made that’s dated the Christmas before we learned she had diabetes. They’re all a part of what makes us our family.
There are plenty of happy memories too, with grins with a missing teeth or messages of love and caring from these children. For the rest of the season, I’ll sneak in there and look at the different parts of the tree, reminiscing about that era in our lives and how they all brought us to the joyous place we are now.
That’s easily worth a little back pain for a day or two.