Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas decor survival — for manly men

Subpar.  I'll get it right next year.

Holiday decorations say a lot about the mommy — so says the fluffy magazine I was forced to read at the barbershop because all the fishing and streaming magazines were taken.

I, however, am the manly man, real-guy, don't-mess-with-me dad. And I have become the biggest mommy of them all when it comes to Christmas decorations.

I have the schematic for the outside lights planned for months. I actually start the year previous, before I take down the twinkles from the roof, the chimney, and the dog. I track what I think worked and what didn't. I remember what got compliments and what was cringe-worthy.

My involvement with Christmas decorating started years ago with a solitary grape-vine reindeer, which, even then, wasn’t enough decoration for our neighborhood. Our next-door lady, so docile in warmer weather, became an animal with both garland and plastic wrap in industrial rolls. She entombed her house in red plastic, so visiting her was like a level of Dante’s Inferno.

So I added a riding Santa to my yard decor, which came with a cute little grape-wreath pipe, which made the neighborhood come unglued with its political incorrectness. So, I spent some time trying to reweave the pipe into something else.

All I could come up with was a magnifying glass, which turned Santa into a fat and festive Sherlock Holmes.

And still the decorations were not enough — way too subtle. I still got looks from the morning jogging neighborhood woman that said “nice try, Christmas daddy, but you have a long way to go." I answered with a look of my own, which said, “I am just warming up, you holiday twig, so be prepared.”

Then the world was blessed with the simplicity of inflatables. They were cute for a year, but we were poor and couldn't afford them. So, I blew up our fishing raft, put a bow on it and placed it under Detective Santa. My kids named it the U.S.S. Watson.

I realized that I had missed the decor mark when I plucked a burning arrow out of the stern with a note on it that said, "Nice job, Christmas daddy — Not!"

I have since drawn the line at inflatable’s — mostly because they are tacky and can be negated with a simple burning arrow, and partly because they keep popping the fuse and leaving the neighborhood in a blackout.

Inside the house, decorating was easier. I opened up one of my wife’s magazines, which said to use household items in the tree for an unexpected yet homey touch. The problem was having to pull stuff out of the tree whenever I needed to drain noodles or clean the tub.

The household tree was a bust. So was the "international breakfast tree" and the "tree of a thousand marbles."

The "Beatles" tree was covered with little vinyl records, wigs and walruses.

And as much as I liked the “chicken up a tree” tree, I didn’t like having to get up early to hold its beak shut so that it wouldn’t wake up the neighbors.

I didn't want to turn into a controlling mom, so I started letting the kids decorate the tree. This meant that there was a ring about three feet high that was covered with pages from coloring books, plastic stretchy bracelets and anything shiny, while the rest of the tree was as naked as ... as something with no clothes on.

So Mega Dad went to work — my alter ego. Today’s Christmas tree is crystal and has a corporate sponsor. It sports its own circuit breaker and its own switch so I don’t have to don protective gear and knee pads to plug it in.

It is the epitome of good taste.

The outside decor benefited from my intensity as well. I am the awe of the neighborhood. Where I was once the yesteryear's guy who was "not enough," I'm now the unmitigated "awww" of skinny joggers in the surrounding neighborhoods.

I no longer get anonymous stealth notes to berate me. I am the standard, I am the walrus. My twinkle lights gracefully extend into the heavens, and all want to know my secret.

And I tell them. It's mommy power.

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