Last week a Boy Scout from Pack 125 delivered our Christmas wreath. My husband and I agree on two things when it comes to holiday decorating. We buy a wreath to hang on the front door, and we always buy it from the Scouts.
And this is where our preferences diverge.
My idea of decorating is to keep it simple. A few strands of single-colored lights, a wreath, some holly. No yard figurines, no flashing lights and for Pete’s sake, no inflatables. John finds my simple tastes amusing. He doesn’t consider it a light display unless it can be seen from Mars.
You can see how this difference of opinion could interfere with our marital bliss. When we were first married, John and I owned a Milwaukee bungalow duplex on the east side of Tosa. I knew I was in trouble our first Christmas when John pulled out a string of lights with giant bulbs of varying primary colors to string on our front porch. Antiques, he called them. Circus lights, I corrected.
A few years after that, he came home from a rummage sale with Frosty – the plastic version that lights up and is meant to keep company with the fake reindeer on the lawn and the giant leg lamp on the table inside. By this time we had moved to our second home, a cozy cape cod on the west side of Tosa.
Try as I might, I could not convince John that Frosty needed to hit the road. One year I set Frosty up on our back deck, hoping John would accept a compromise. By morning Frosty had mysteriously walked to our front yard. Then, I considered assisting Frosty in “an accident,” but worried his replacement might be worse. In one of my more passive aggressive moments, I hid Frosty, hoping maybe John would forget about him when it came time to decorate. He didn’t. Another year, I was close to marching down the driveway and handing Frosty to the garbage man but couldn’t do it. I felt like a homicidal Scrooge.
Each and every year I tell myself that I am not going to let Frosty the Snowman ruin my Christmas. I really do attempt to view Frosty as a marital compromise and let John enjoy his decorating. And then I see Frosty being carried out of the attic and plopped down on our front yard, and the pettiest part of me erupts. Like a spurned lover, I yell out the front door that it’s either Frosty or me. I recognize the childish nature of my petulance, but I can’t stop it – I hate that darn snowman.
Like so many other patterns in our lives, I have to believe that decorating can be traced back to our childhood. My Mom, a skilled designer, could best be described as a minimalist. Though memories can sometimes be tricky things, I am fairly certain we never had a plastic Frosty the Snowman in our front yard.
I’m not sure that John did either but he did have a 60 foot evergreen, and as a child, he was tasked with stringing lights on it. Thus, his oversized fondness for holiday illumination began. His family of eleven lived across the street from the church they attended, and they considered the tree a holiday greeting to the parishioners.
So John would shimmy up the branches, lights in hand, stringing an impossibly enormous tree. To power the copious bulbs, he ran three extension cords; two over the roof to outlets in the back and one through his parents’ bedroom window. On occasion one of his five sisters would make the mistake of plugging in a hair dryer in the “boys bathroom,” blowing a fuse and plunging half of the homestead into darkness. Remarkably, John never broke a bone. In fact, I think it is one of the fondest memories of his childhood home.
We moved recently to a new house, a brick colonial back in east Tosa. As we packed up, I moved things out to the garage. On one side of the garage, I piled items that needed to go to Goodwill. On the other, items to be moved into our new garage. I placed Frosty close to the Goodwill pile. You might call it a suggestion. When John discovered the now faded snowman earmarked for charity, he shot me an accusing glance and briskly carried Frosty to the moving truck.
When Halloween rolled around that year, John decided we needed to “step things up a notch” with Halloween decorating in our new house. He got busy on Amazon and before I realized it had ordered a giant web, inflatable spider, and of course orange lights for the front of our house. We had a lot going on in our lives at that particular point in time, so I didn’t have the energy to protest. I also thought that maybe I could use the spider as a bargaining chip. Maybe if he could get his decorating yayas out with the spider, he would agree to dial it back with Christmas. A foolish notion. I await a life-size Easter bunny with fluorescent pink flashing ears to appear in our front yard next April.
Finally, though, we have arrived at one more thing that we can agree on this Christmas. Something that any two thoughtful, considerate, mature adults could concede – we take turns. You will not see Frosty in my front yard this year, but fellow Frosty-loving neighbors need not despair – in 2019 Frosty will return.