random thoughts on my favorite time of year

I was born within a day of Christmas.

That is a mixed blessing. I’m sure it was for my Mom, too, especially that first year!

When I was a child, I was a little miffed that my birthday got absorbed and forgotten in the midst of Christmas madness, unlike other kids who practically had a holiday created in their name, in June or October. Later on, though, I came to like my “stealth” birthday. It got lost, and thus I could “lose” my advancing age with it.

Nowadays, I don’t really care. There is so much more important to concern myself with — but I bring that up, because the combination of Christmas and my birthday always made this time of year very special, anticipated it with pleasure. My name is Carol Joy, after all.

When I was a younger human machine, I could actually feel the proverbial “juices” begin to flow in autumn. I always attributed it to the cooler weather and anticipation of the end of the “year,” even if a year is a human construct.

The harvest season is one of increased energy, because earlier mankind had deadlines at harvest. You had to have enoughfor the darker, colder winter. Fall is a prelude to a sort of hibernation, so you had to have the supplies packed in. The renewed energy level after the lethargy of summer heat was necessary. So, it’s probably not just me. The ancient Asian culture addresses this in their medicine, too, by noting the best ways to handle each section of the year with your body. Spend time outdoors in each season, to better prepare your system for the next one and to stave off illness, for example.

But I digress. We were talking about Christmas and why I am a Christmas obsessed person. I will share some of my Christmas musings, as we meander through December.

And this morning what bothers me is those little packages that come with the Christmas lights.

They always come in the box of lights and I understand what they are, but they never work.

The one with the red tip is supposed to make the string blink, on and off. It doesn’t. The clear ones are supposed to replace the bulbs that don’t light up. They don’t light up either. And the little “baton” is a fuse. But where, on a cheesy string of lights from China, does a “fuse” go?

I rarely throw these little packages away, because….you never know. But at this point they have become fodder for my always-threatened “stand-up routine.” My Christmas ornaments bin is lined with them. Well, it was until last year, when I decided they were worthless. But I bought another string of lights for our artificial tree — more on that beauty later — and got a new package and decided to give them another chance.

Same result. None of the bulbs do what they’re supposed to do, and I still have no idea where the fuse might go.

But, my heavily recycled artificial Christmas tree is still looking pretty good.

We started with artificial trees when we moved into our “Atomic Ranch” style house in Raleigh in 2006 . The first one we had was white. It was really cool with our Mid-Century Modern furniture and I did a color-coordinated blue, white and silver theme. We did a lot of entertaining in those days, especially at Christmas. John was in management and I had artistic aspirations lalala, and so, it worked.

But the white “needles” began to discolor after a couple years, so I replaced it with a green, prelit, fairly authentic looking tree I probably got on sale the day after Christmas. (I spray painted the white one RED — I am an artist! –and we used it for a couple years more, but it got relegated to outside because the red “shed.”)

The green tree, from probably 2009, is the one we still have. It’s moved to the Lowcountry with us. I used to take it apart and put it back in the box. But when we got here and had a garage, I just started wrapping it in the big clear plastic bags I bought for shipping giant paintings, and stuck it in the corner, behind the market umbrellas and show tents.

A couple years ago I started thinking we needed to replace it. Several areas of lights no longer worked. But I replaced them with dollarstore lights and made it work another year. We don’t entertain any more, my husband could care less about Christmas decorations, and it’s really just for me.

If wrapping it up and leaving it in one piece was handy, leaving a lot of the ornaments right on it was handy, too. I looked at some of the groups of snowflakes and teddy bears and realized I could stand it if they didn’t make it. But they did!

Of course, I take the special ones off and pack them carefully. They have been accumulating over the course of our 20 years together, and they are so much fun to re-visit. We have some real little treasures, as only Christmas ornaments can be…

…and we have some humorous reminders of who we are to those who love us: last year a “A Christmas Story” leg lamp ornament for my honey, and a dinosaur for me — both from one of his daughters. We have some geographical and personal ornaments too: a shiny brass Oklahoma, a little sculpture of Portland Head Light, fish, parrots, birds large and small, bears, cats, an amazing little wooden sailboat, several extremely accurate guitars (from Restoration Hardware)….these I still pack away in boxes, and marvel at them each year.

But many unbreakable, unsentimental ornaments now stay on the tree. I wrap it from top to bottom in the big bags, and in the corner it goes. Every year , when I go to retrieve it, I expect it to be horrible: full of spiders or anoles, or those hideous giant grasshoppers we get here — but every year it comes out of hibernation like a champ.

So, now it’s like me: we each celebrate a Christmas birthday, getting a little more decrepit every year, but still glad to be vertical — and not covered in spiderwebs.

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