This Side Up

It's time to plug in Christmas


Carol didn’t say a word; she didn’t have to.

Two boxes of Christmas lights sat on the entryway table. She knew I had seen them. I didn’t say anything. I got the message – Christmas is coming, it’s time we get ready.

A day went by. Neither of us said anything.

Then the poinsettia appeared. It was a small one in a tiny gold foil-wrapped pot that brought cheer to the kitchen table.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t hardy. Within a day it was shedding leaves. In two days, it was a stalk, and then it was gone.

The two boxes of lights remained untouched. I found the plastic wreath in the coat closet and tied that to the nail outside the front door. There. It was officially the Christmas season.

Carol didn’t say anything, although she surely had seen the wreath.

It just doesn’t feel like Christmas.

I really haven’t started shopping and time is running out. The Christmas spirit hasn’t been kindled, not yet, anyhow.

It isn’t cold enough. There’s no snow. Global warming has thrown my shopping clock out of sync.

Soon, I realize, I won’t even be able to turn to the Internet for a solution. It will be too late.

That’s usually the easy way out, a matter of finding the wish lists emailed by the kids and putting aside any thought of the running tab and simply pushing a few buttons. I rebel at the process. It’s practically effortless, without much of the personal thought that can be so rewarding for recipient and giver. The time investment and thought is minimal, although the pain to one’s account can be substantial.

That should not be the legacy of Christmas.

I left the computer and made my first shopping foray Saturday with nothing particular in mind. I returned with a couple of gifts, items I was pleased to find. It was a beginning. The threshold was crossed.

The spirit needed kindling.

I wrapped one of the items – a glass gift box, which may be a little too heavy as a tree ornament – and gave it to Carol. We talked about getting a tree, even though we won’t be here for Christmas. Yes, there’s got to be a tree.

She noted that, without fail, the Christmas cactus that belonged to her grandmother, and has been a part of our household for more than 40 years, was still blooming. We looked around the house.

Actually, like the old cactus, Christmas is alive everywhere in the house. There’s the wreath with a glass cardinal hanging in the dinning room window; the brass angel on the chandelier; the scene of Bethlehem in needlepoint, a work of art created by the Hmong women who traditionally run a booth at the Gaspee Days arts and crafts festival.

I assured Carol the lights would be easy.

She reminded me of the boxes.

Five minutes later, I told her they were set. She looked surprised. How did I manage to string them so quickly? She looked out at the porch. Lights twinkled. And then she laughed.

“You plugged them in.”

Yes, the lights were there from last Christmas. Nothing needed to be strung.

That’s the good thing about Christmas – its traditions. Plug into that and everything lights up.


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