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Untangling Christmas lights isn’t my favorite job, but to tell you the truth, I don’t mind doing it. It’s all part of my Christmas decorating ritual.
It’s peaceful as I begin the untangling process. I plug the lights in because it’s prettier to fool with them lit up instead of when they’re dark and lifeless. As they bob up and down with the motion of my hands, my cat, Wolfgang, takes notice. There’s nothing he likes to eat more than Christmas light wire. Except maybe Christmas gift ribbon. Why he thinks these things are holiday gourmet treats is beyond me.
Yes, I decorate my tree alone. Sometimes I think it would be fun to have other people or at least one other person helping, but then again, I like the custom I’ve created. I pour a glass of wine, cue up a version of A Christmas Carol, and get to work like a happy elf. In the middle of the pre-Christmas chaos, this is my slow jam.
This a completely different scene than where I am earlier.
The previous night I’m at The Frog’s Mouth to see not one, but four ska bands. It’s been a long time since I’ve been inside The Frog’s Mouth, but I can swear the same beer that made my boots stick to the floor the last time is still gracing the floor underfoot. There are digitized screens where posters once hung, but otherwise, it looks pretty much the same.
The bands begin and are loud and intense, but this is okay. That’s why I’m here. There’s a drunk guy on the floor. Isn’t there always a drunk guy on the floor? I’m here with Quint and Hooper and we watch the drunk guy do what he thinks is dancing. We immediately dub him The Worm. He keeps falling down while dancing and then rolls around until his friends pick him up. This is about as sanitary as dumpster diving behind a fish market. Or sipping from the big tank at a sewage plant.
As The Worm does his thing, the music pounds. As always, I’ve forgotten earplugs. Bright white flashing lights assault my brain and threaten to trigger a migraine. People jump, swing their arms, kick their legs. It all sounds very chaotic and that’s only because it is. I’m having a fantastic time, people-watching and absorbing the bedlam.
The Worm drops again, squirms on the floor. His friends pick him up. Lights burst, horns wail. A new band starts. The Worm disappears, then reappears, flailing and falling.
The next morning I sip my coffee in a haze, my ears feeling like they’re stuffed with cotton.
Fun as it is, after that I need silence and solitude. I string the lights on my little tree, then unpack my ancient trunk of ornaments. As I pull each ornament out, I remember when I got it and who gave it to me. The first to emerge is from a childhood Christmas and it’s from my aunt in Ohio. Another is from the yearly ornament exchange that I go to with old friends from a long-gone job. Each ornament is mulled over, then placed on the tree where it will catch the light to best effect. This is why I like to do this on my own. It takes forever.
By now Wolfgang is asleep on the day bed having given up on eating decorations after being shooed away so many times. He’s curled into a perfectly shaped bagel, his tail wrapped around his entire body. This is his winter sleeping position.
Last to hang are the glass icicles. With the overhead lights out, they make the tree lights glow and shimmer.
There are more events before The Big Day. There are parties and gatherings of friends at local pubs around town. There are last-minute gifts to buy, traffic to battle, and food to make. It’s a feeding frenzy of activity unless I declare a hiatus.
Tonight I’ve declared a hiatus. A sip of wine. One last icicle to hang. I step back and admire.
All is bright. All is calm.
Juliana Gribbins is a writer who believes that absurdity is the spice of life. Her book Date Expectations is winner of the 2017 Independent Press Awards, Humor Category and winner of the 2016 IPPY silver medal for humor. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of her columns at www.zip06.com/shorelineliving.
Juliana Gribbins is the Columnist for Zip06. Email Juliana at .