Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Christmas Light Fiasco

When I was a child growing up, my sister trained me in correct Christmas tree decorating procedures. She had a thing about the whole tree being decorated, not just the front that everyone could see. Under her guidance, I became skilled in the art of evenly distributing the ornaments around the tree – something I have passed on to my own children. These days, now that the children are older, the tree can be boxed up in the garage one moment and upright and sparkling the next.
A Big Surprise
This year while I was at work, Mr Practical and our three children (the teen, the tween and the toddler) decided to decorate the tree as a surprise for me. Usually our tree looks great. At nightfall, silver lights illuminate the branches setting every ornament ablaze. I loved to wait until the children have all gone to bed and just sit near the tree and soak up the beauty of the tree and of the season. This time, however, when I walked in to the dimly lit living room after work, I almost missed the tree.
“What do you think, Mum?” chorused the children. I spun around to glance in the direction they were pointing, to see our tree adorned in the tiniest coloured fairy lights in existence. These must’ve been the ‘low impact on the environment’ lights because their low illumination had a low impact on me! Let”s just say, when God stood at the beginning of existence and proclaimed, “Let there be Light!” there’s now way He had these lights in mind. Pitifull. (I would insert a picture here except I deleted them because the lights were so tiny they illuminated nothing.)

“Wow, you put the tree up! Did you guys do all that?” I asked, knowing it didn't look right. They nodded excitedly. “You did a great job.” I held off making a comment about the lights because that would’ve been a crushing blow but I really wanted to know why they didn’t use our usual lights.
Everyone told me which part they did. The towering teen decorated the upper branches and fixed the star on the very top – obvious, the tween dressed the lower half and Little Miss (aged 3) passed the ornaments up to her brothers. A significant role. “They wanted to do it for you as a surprise,” Mr Practical whispered, leaning over to me. Okay, let the bad attitude go about the lights. Who really cares? If they liked it the way it was, then that was good enough for me too. Right? I’ve really been working on not making an issue of small things and just letting things go. This philosophy had been working relatively well… until now.
Retreating to my bedroom to change my clothes and my attitude because those teeny tiny lights didn’t meet my expectation, Mr P followed me inside. Aware of what I might be thinking, he explained that the other lights were so tangled and not working he decided to make the executive decision to throw them out. That seemed reasonable, after all they were only lights. Stores have boxes and boxes of them this time of year. No big deal – until the next day when a disturbing thought dawned on me.

What Happened to Winnie?
When our teen was a baby, for his first Christmas we bought the cutest Winnie the Pooh commemorative lights. Every Christmas since, I’d delicately draped Winnie, Tigger and Piglet over the fake branches of our Canadian Spruce - except for this year. Winnie and friends had been discarded like common trash. I felt hollow. Despair seeped into my heart like a mudslide overtaking a primitive village (too dramatic?).
I was then confronted by another thought. What lights was I going to use to decorate the room for our pre-Christmas dinner party with friends? I had none to borrow off the tree and with only a matter of hours before our guests arrived, the transformation of our rumpus room, complete with Wii and mini pool table, wasn’t looking good. Let’s face it, the chances of Colin Cowie (Oprah’s party stylist) knocking on my door carrying an armful of crystal twinkling lights and transforming the room into a magical Christmas wonderland, were nudging zero especially since he knew nothing of my dilemma.

With time ticking on and still having food to prep and cook, a house to clean and a room to do something with, I did what any resourceful woman would do… (no, I didn’t search through the garbage to find the old lights, I wish I’d thought of that at the time… and no I didn’t sit down and cry) I jumped on Facebook.

Suggestions streamed in, even a generous gift of an entire tree-full of lights from a co-worker which would have solved the dilemma entirely except, she was still at work and then had to locate her dis-used lights somewhere in her garage. There were no guarantees and time was at a premium.

After my best delegating efforts, everyone was busy. I still needed a centrepiece for the table and in the best interest of my marriage, I knew I should take care of that, myself. If I sent Mr Practical out to buy something glittery and gorgeous, he’d come back with a shiny biscuit tin! Being so practical, he’d be thinking we could use it again afterwards. Welcome to my world.

While I was out shopping I kept an eye out for Christmas lights, just in case the others were a ‘no show’. Everywhere was sold out! I grabbed six silver votive candle holders for the centrepiece – it was either that or a big, glitzy silver kneeling reindeer, but come Boxing Day, what else could I do with a bling-bling reindeer? Now I’m thinking like you-know-who!

By three o’clock, the house was clean, the room was being set up and the food was ready to go into the oven but we still had no lights.

A Slight Detour
After a horribly humid day, (remember we’re in summer Down Under), I was finally ready to shower and get myself ready when Mr P called to say he was at the petrol station and had just realised he’d left his wallet at work. I needed to take a drive and pay for his petrol. I didn’t have time for this. My hair was feral and I was sticky from sweat.

A montage of Christmases spent with our children when they were young with our beloved Winnie and friends adorning the tree flickered through my mind. How could Mr P do that? Had it meant nothing to him because it did to me and surely that was enough reason to keep them whether they still worked or not? Enough! I didn’t have time to dwell. What would be the point of being angry and upset when our friends were coming over to celebrate one of the happiest times of the year? That, not the light issue, could have ruined the evening.

Keeping a good attitude, I paid for the petrol and was relieved his wallet had been located and kept safe at work. I decided to drive to the nearest supermarket to pick up a few last minute items. It wasn’t my usual place to shop, so it took me a little longer to find what I needed but as I came around the end of aisle seven, I discovered a tower of boxed lights! Sometimes in unusual or unfamiliar places, lie the greatest blessings.

Having not yet heard back about the ‘gift’ lighting package, I figured she was probably having difficulty locating them. Racing home just moments before a summer storm, I hurled the box of lights to Mr P and the teen to hang, then burst into the kitchen to check on the lemon and garlic chickens roasting and the crunchy dill potatoes. Suddenly I realised, I still needed to shower.

A Slight Delay
The phone rang and it was my friend who was bringing her small tribe to dinner. She informed me it was hailing at her place and could she wait until the storm passed and then drive over. Excellent. Take your time. Summer storms don’t tend to hang around too long here, no matter how fierce they look or sound. Chaos and devastation can easily pass within half an hour.

All our guests arrived safely after the storm had passed. Dinner was served and it was delicious and we had plenty of it. Because all our family live far away our surrogate Grandma (family friend) joined us and gave Little Miss a scooter. Between the main course and dessert, a race track was formed around the table. It was noisy and fun.The Christmas Spirit had arrived.

I had imagined a room twinkling with a thousand clear fairy lights but instead I got a room with two hundred flashing coloured lights. All that was missing was a disco ball and karaoke machine! It really didn’t seem to matter. We were all together to celebrate our friendship at a very special time of year. My heart was full.

That’s not quite the end of the story. The day after, what did I find on the workshop bench? Winnie and Friends tangled but not trashed. Oops! It seems they were never actually thrown out. “Someone” was actually trying to fix them. Perhaps ‘someone’ could’ve mentioned that rather important detail at the beginning. Then again I wouldn’t have had the same opportunity to practise the act of grace. I could’ve really said some hurtful words to those around me especially when things didn't go the way I'd planned. I've discovered it's nice if it all comes together, but not a tragedy if it doesn’t. Gathering with those we love, is always the most important detail.

Thank heavens for delays, detours and blessings hidden for us. When we relax a little and slow down we will find them and hear the voice of peace and goodwill to all.

©2010 Philippa Vette

This is my last blog for the year. Some exciting developments for next year. I will be sure to keep you posted. Become a fan on Facebook: Philippa Vette Inspirational Writer and follow my tweets on Twitter: Wordsmum.

I wish you much peace and joy for Christmas and a fresh determination and vision to live well and let your life be full of meaning and purpose in the coming New Year. Keep laughing!