Long before I was twelve.
I was 7.
I liked 7.
Mostly because I didn't really understand things and nobody really expected me to
Snow came from heaven
and Santa was real
and everybody told the truth..
but this has nothing to do with the wonders of being 7
it just meant that I was old enough
old enough to join the assembly line
the assembly line of Christmas
old enough to be yelled at if I screwed up the system
the system was perfect
it had been in place since before my birth
and would remain until well after my death.
you see, back in the days before I was 7
Christmas was celebrated with the building of
the silver monster
no one is sure when this beast was created
but every year on December 6th we lined up like soldiers
being inspected by our general father
the box was ceremoniously lowered from the closet
Dad reciting the same magic words he did every year
"Dammit, who the hell put this thing, hold the ladder, no, get out of my way."
and then the world changed as the cardboard slab slid from its box and displayed before our eyes,
rows of silvery tree branches, all standing at attention.
lined up by height in almost perfect rows..
the "almost perfect" being one of the banes of my father's Christmas existence.
My father stared at the line of children who would now build him his tree.
I was new to the team, but I knew my job.
I was first.
I was to hand the branch to my sister.
My sister fluffed the branch by running it through the cardboard tube
My Brother put on a hook
My other sister put on an ornament
and my eldest brother put the branch into the hole drilled into the stick that soon would be our silvery symbol of Christmas.
but before any of that started.
but before any of that started.
Dad would hold up his hand and say.
"The distance between the tip of you thumb and the tip of you pinky is equal to the distance that an ornament should be from the tip of the branch.
The distance from pinky to thumb on my father's hand was 9 inches. The fact that all of our hands were smaller than his was irrelevant.. He would be in later and measure every branch.
"All ornaments shall be red. There will be no variation or signs of personal expression." My father had purchased a gross of red ornaments to go specifically with the silver tree. He had kept all of the old ornaments from the years before the silvery, glittery tree of disco, but that was not out of nostalgia. My father was born during the depression and you were taught to save everything.
When he had finished with the orders for this military maneuver, Dad would retire to the Kitchen and test the strings of unused lights to be put away for next year. This was signified by the constant string of cursing and punctuated by the flicking of his zippo lighter.
We went to work building a tree. Making it as much fun as we could by singing Chritmas Carols and telling Christmas jokes. We built, and constructed, and engineered until the Christmas tree of disco stood in our living room, proud and tall and looking for it's Bee Gees haircut and gold chains.
There was only one step left.
Not the original light. The original light was a multicolored wheel which rotated films in front of a white light. It was very psychedelic. The new light was an orb with a large hole in it. In side the hole was a multicolored cube which spun on an axis and changed the color of light in the room as it spun.
No one touched the light. We were afraid of it and it's electric elements. Dad had a way of repairing electrical things that didn't fix them as much as make them into death traps. The old light is now the old light because in previous years it attempted to kill one of us. The new light, was new to us, but may have been the product of a bar room deal in which one death trap was sold to an unsuspecting recipient who was unaware of the it's accursed properties. This was often the case with men born during the depression who threw nothing away..
We all stared at the light and it's uncertain wiring. We needed to make Christmas. In order to make Christmas we needed to turn on the new light with it's amazing color cube. Finally, Stephen (The middle brother) crawled forward like a sniper and plugged the wire into the outlet. It wasn't that Stephen was braver than the rest of us. He had just been victim of Dad's faulty wiring before and was pretty sure of the amount of voltage his body could handle.
We all cheered.
Dad took a nap.
and we all prayed that the house didn't burn down.