Later that same evening, as I browsed through our mind-boggling collection of Christmas music for something to put on the hi-fi, Alexis was on her knees in front of the many bins and totes and storage boxes that held our vast collection of Christmas ornaments.
The children, freshly washed and wrapped in a protective layer of flannel, were “helping” her. Their helping consisted of excitedly tearing the lids off of storage bins, pulling out boxes, which they also opened to pull out the ornaments. I shook my head. I could have told them they were making a rookie mistake. Obviously, they were not familiar with neither Alexis’ color-coded charts nor her patented “method of doing things.” I had no doubt they were about to be schooled in both.
I finally found and put on some gentle, soothing Christmas music to set the tone. Mrs. Fournier brought in a steaming cauldron of hot chocolate and a silver salver of homemade cookies. This had the effect of distracting the children from the bright, shiny ornaments. While they sipped at their chocolate and giggled with each other about biting the heads off of the cookie snowmen and elves and reindeer, Alexis tried to conduct a seminar on her method of decorating the tree. She was explaining to them the importance of good tiering, of balance, and of form. The trick, she instructed, was to avoid “clumping” of either colors or textures or thematically similar items.
I could have told her that her words were falling on deaf ears. The children were much more interested in their ragtag collection of headless snowmen cookies, reindeer cookies with no antlers or legs, and elves denuded of their pointy hats. They were giggling uncontrollably and composing elaborate stories with each other about the rise of the headless snowmen, and how an army of hatless elves rode in on their antler-less (and sometimes legless) reindeer to save the day.
Alexis sighed hopelessly as she realized she had lost her audience. I just put my arm around her shoulders and offered her a steaming mug of hot chocolate.
“Don’t fret, my ravishing Narcissus,” I said, giving her shoulders an encouraging squeeze. “Let them decorate as they will. I predict they will lose interest by the time they’ve hung 8 or 10 ornaments. Then I will herd them upstairs and put them to bed while you rearrange all of the decorations to conform to your standards for tiering, balance, form, and anti-clumping.
She smiled up at me, her eyes glittering beauteously as they reflected the thousands of lights of the tree. “You’re right,” she said, taking a tentative sip of hot chocolate. “I don’t know why I get so worked up about things like this.”
“Because, my Dear, you are a perfectionist. Which makes me wonder why on earth you ever agreed to marry me. I am decidedly non-perfect.”
“You are perfect for me,” she said. “Two perfectionists would have killed each other before the wedding was over.”
“You are probably right about that,” I said, taking a contemplative sip of hot chocolate. I noted that the mug I was holding had painted on it a sprig of mistletoe, so I held the mug above our heads and leaned down to give her a kiss.
“Not in front of the children,” she said, giggling and turning her head slightly so that I ended up kissing her on the cheek.
“Well, they’re bound to find out about us sooner or later,” I said. “We can’t hide our relationship from them forever.”
“You know what I mean,” she said, conspiratorially. “Later … after they are asleep.”
She set her mug down and got the children’s attention, which was now much easier since their cookie army had been decimated, with both sides suffering heavy losses.
The tree decorating began in earnest. Alexis carefully took the delicate ornaments out of the boxes, I affixed the hooks to them, and the children hung them on the tree. Alexis had a story that went with each ornament. I was amazed at her ability to remember the story of our family’s life as told in Christmas ornaments. How she was able to keep track of which ornament went with which life event was beyond my comprehension. I hadn’t even known where we stored the ornaments, let alone what each one means. It’s a good thing she did not demand perfection from me like she does with everything else.
I was wrong about the stamina of the children. They remained engaged and enthusiastic about the entire process from start to finish. I could tell Alexis was cringing at how they hung some of the ornaments, but one could not find fault in their energy and enthusiasm. We sang along with the Christmas carols on the hi-fi. We took breaks to enjoy hot chocolate and a new batch of cookies from Mrs. Fournier. I, of course, had to get out a small ladder to hang up the ornaments above the children’s reach.
Eventually, much to everyone’s dismay, we ran out of ornaments.
I glanced at Alexis to gauge her reaction. She just stared at the tree, biting her lower lip as if not quite sure what to make of what she was seeing.
The tree looked the very picture of Christmas cheer and beauty. The ornaments were absolutely lovely. The shining ribbons of gold and silver that Alexis wove amid the branches were lovely. Everything was absolutely perfect.
Except that the decorations only went about halfway up the tree. The top half of the tree was completely bare except for the twinkling lights that Rufus had woven into the branches earlier.
I glanced nervously at Alexis, sure that she would be extremely displeased. Even the children seemed to be holding their breaths as they kept glancing back and forth between the tree and Alexis.
But finally, much to everyone’s shock, she merely said, “It’s perfect. Don’t you all think so?”
We nodded our heads, stunned, and mumbled our agreement.
“Okay, children,” she said. “It’s time for bed.”
They protested a little as she stood and begin herding them towards the door. She stopped in front of where I stood looking at the tree, still feeling a little like the villagers whose village had been spared by the passing tornado.
“And as for you …” she said to me in a low voice so that the children could not hear. I stiffened, fearing the worst.
But she just smiled and said, “Next year, make sure I only get a ten-foot tree.”
I smiled and kissed her on the top of the head and assured her that I would.
After all, sometimes less is more.
Or, at least it is just enough.
Thank you so much for reading!
I hope everyone has a most joyous and wonderful Christmas!
Copyright ©2018 by Biff Sock Pow
All characters contained herein are also Copyright ©2018 by Biff Sock Pow