It’s become Diamonqueen’s tradition to put up her Christmas tree in the days before Thanksgiving. Usually we’ve done it on Tuesday night, when I’m always there visiting. However, this year J.Hooligan had a skating party with his Cub Scout pack, so we moved our tree trimming back a night to Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve.
It was extremely easy this year because Diamondqueen had done all the heavy lifting (literally and figuratively) ahead of time. The tree was assembled, which is always a messy endeavor shin-deep in bristly wire limbs. The lights and garlands were already strung on the branches. The cartons of ornaments were in place, ready to be plucked up and hung. It was going to be a cakewalk for me, at least.
As soon as I stepped in the door, S.Hooligan yelled, “Nancy’s here! Come on, Nancy, let’s start trimming the TREEEEE!!!!” She whirled past me and circled back through the dining room and kitchen before I could get the door closed.
Diamonqueen brought in her portable DVD player already set up with holiday music. S.Hooligan and I set right in. S. is really into hanging ornaments this year. She was very interested in them and was discerning in how and where she hung them. “There,” she’d announced after clustering a third large ornament on a single branch, “that’s pefect!”
J.Hooligan had always been the dedicated workhorse when it came to trimming the tree. This year he languished on the sofa, seemingly uninterested in any of it. He told me with pride when I first arrived that he’d put the two-foot length of plastic candy garland on the tree himself. Apparently the effort had sapped his energy for the rest of the night. Despite many calls and threats from his mother, J. continued to dance along the periphery, sometimes applying new uses to ornaments that he should have been hanging on the tree, sometimes sprawling in the foyer playing with a wind-up Santa on a motorcycle.
Once TPM (That Poor Man) appeared on the scene, S.Hooligan pestered him to be lifted “high, high, HIGH!” so she could hang ornaments on the upper branches. It became a routine where TPM would lift her up, then drop her on the floor. “He did it again!” S. would shriek, lying on her back and kicking her feet.
For all his negligence, J.Hooligan wasn’t about to forego his important role of putting the “star” on top of the tree. The topper is a figure of Scooby-Doo in an angel costume, holding a pepperoni pizza. TPM, who’d already gotten quite a workout with S., now swung J.Hooligan on high. J. didn’t put the Scooby topper on quite straight. He didn’t notice, and Diamondqueen motioned to me that she’d take care of it later. However, with all the rambunctiousness going on, Scooby was shaken loose from his perch and plummeted to the carpet. J.Hooligan, in response, wailed in dismay and ran, sobbing theatrically, from the room. Some cannily chosen threats of lost video game privileges coerced J. to return to the living room, and TPM again had to hoist a Hooligan.
S.Hooligan’s role was to light the tree, which at least required her to stay on the floor. She turned a switch and the tree glowed, kicking off another Christmas season.
My mother’s tradition since the arrival of the Hooligan children is to have them come to her house the Saturday after Thanksgiving to trim her tree. When I arrived at the Hooligan house to pick the kids up, S.Hooligan was delighted and energetically ran to the foyer to put on her shoes. (We later learned she’d overlooked putting on her socks; Diamondqueen sent a pair along for me to put on S. before we came home.)
J.Hooligan, on the other hand, was watching a cartoon he did not want to leave. It took threats and subtle violence to get him to the same stage of dress as S., who was outfitted in her pink parka and impatient to be on our way.
Both kids were extremely helpful the first 20 minutes of our trimming operation. I had separated out the “safe” ornaments from the vintage and glass baubles I didn’t want them to handle. They dove in and began hanging ornaments as Grandma snapped photos. Neither S. nor J. are particularly open to helpful suggestions, so it was useless to point out that maybe five ornaments on one branch was too much or that the tree was more festive when the ornaments were hung so the front faced out, not the back. I busied myself with the glass balls and antiques, then quietly went behind the Hooligans’ backs and redistributed the ornaments more evenly across the surface of the tree.
Somehow “Doctor Who” was on the TV instead of the seasonal music channel I’d suggested. Soon J. was engrossed in an episode about Cybermen and Daleks that he’s seen several times already. His only assistance with the tree after that point was not to block me with his long legs as I passed back and forth with handfuls of trims. S. simply tired out and lost interest. At least now the kids are old enough that we don’t have to keep a constant eye on them, so Mom and I dedicated ourselves to finishing up the tree while J. and S. sipped milk and juice and moved on to a broadcast of the movie “Elf.”
I invited them to help me take Rusty for a walk, but only S. was interested. She talked non-stop, her high-velocity voice ringing to the stars. When she got cold, we paused so she could put on her gloves. She said she didn’t need to put on her right-hand glove because her (something unintelligible) was already keeping it warm. I saw she was clutching something white but assumed it was a tissue. When we got back to Mom’s, I discovered she’d been carrying the rolled-up pair of socks her mother had sent along.
I again had to argue with and threaten J.Hooligan to make him get his coat on to go back home. Now he didn’t want to leave Grandma’s because he was in the middle of watching “Elf.” Such is J.’s life of constant discontent. Both kids were cheerful as they ran into their house, although Diamonqueen rushed the door screaming, “No, no –we don’t want any!” J. and S. were each campaigning to see their preferred TV show (J. the cartoon I’d made him leave earlier, S. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” for at least the second time in 24 hours). Mom and I quickly departed, leaving Diamondqueen to sort it all out.