I trimmed down our giant, out-of-control Mexican Bird of Paradise in preparation for our Christmas Light Extravaganza. The plant, which grows nestled close to the house, makes hanging our lights a more difficult project than need-be, and it goes dormant in the winter anyway (to grow back even bigger in the spring) so I decided to take it down to about 6″ off the ground for now. It’s really odd how much larger our front yard appears without the six-foot diameter spread of the BoP taking up a large chunk of it. It’s also plainly obvious how poor our gravel out front looks. Three years of weathering the elements and enduring the constant downpour of leaves, flowers, and other plantish detritus has resulted in pretty crappy looking landscaping. The gravel we bought after we moved in consisted of everything 1/2″ and smaller, not realizing that when they say “and smaller” they mean “including lots of dust and rocks so small they qualify as large dust.” The gravel company offers to sift the rock so you keep only the larger pieces, but we didn’t realize that at the time. We know now. So now there’s a layer of normal gravel on top, thin, but it’s mixed with a layer of dead, decomposed crap that simply cannot be removed without taking much of the rock with it. It’s a mess. So we’re going to have to buy new gravel to fill in the worn-down areas, which sucks, but it is an embarassing mess out there.
The lights are up, a project spread over two days because I, as usual, simply can’t do simple. I hung our brand new icicle lights up, forgoing any attempt at being realistic (they’re multicolored lights afterall – when was the last time you saw real icicles that were yellow, blue, green, and red?) because they just look really nice and provide a great amount of light. Single strands of light look pretty pathetic when every other neighbor on your street has their house decked out in blazing sheets of icicle lights.
The amazing thing I realize every time I do this (and promptly forget) is how much time we spend decorating for the short amount of time we actually get to enjoy it. I spent hours outside this weekend getting lights untangled, tested, bulbs replaced, precariously perched on unsteady ladders and clambering about on the roof, all to light up our house for a few hours every night for a few weeks. And I’m not complaining – I probably wouldn’t do it at all if I were. No, that’s not true, I’d put lights up no matter what. I just wouldn’t look forward to it. And that’s the thing. When Halloween roles around, I begin looking forward to not only seeing the holiday decorations but to putting them up myself. I’ve slowly started to become one of those goofy dumbasses the big corporations just love – those people who love the holiday season and overbuy lights, clips, bulbs, extension cords, and all matter of holiday-decoration minutia (just in case!) They pray for people like me, who, every year, about two weeks before Thanksgiving, begin searching the stores for lights because you might just need one more strand of lights. You’ll make use of it somewhere, right? Who can have enough lights?!
And then there’s the music. My dad lives for this stuff – I used to hate it, just hate it. Besides the stations that broadcast all-Christmas, all the time beginning the day after Thanksgiving, he has tapes of Christmas music that he’s practically worn out, but could never be replicated because he taped them from those all-Christmas, all the time broadcasts years ago. Every year for as long as I can remember I’ve heard pretty much the same songs, same order, over and over. I used to think it was going to drive me crazy. Maybe it has. Now, however, I find myself looking forward to hearing this stuff, maybe not actively – I can’t see myself seeking it out, but just running into it playing somewhere, finding it like a little nugget of old gold somewhere. That’s how it’s most enjoyed, to me at least.
And some of this stuff is so bad – Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime,” that is not a good song. But it’s catchy and goofy and gets wedged in my head and has become as much a part of Christmas as “White Christmas.” Or “Feliz Navidad.” I don’t know if this is just a “southwest” thing or not, but the Spanish Christmas song “Feliz Navidad” transcends language and culture barriers to become an anthem of the holidays in Arizona. You can’t escape it – no matter how hard you try, you will wind up being forced to hear it at least once, and then it will circulate in your head for days afterward. And what would the season be without seeing the performance from some old show with the odd pairing of David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing together? My holiday hallmark, however, is hearing Cheech & Chong’s “Santa Claus & His Old Lady”. It just isn’t Christmas without hearing a couple of potheads desecrating the hallowed institution that Christmas and Santa has become.
And wouldn’t you know it, I do need another strand of lights.
(Celebrate the holidays, or just a few minutes, at unproductivity.)