This is our Christmas tree.
You may notice that it is outside.
You may notice that it is outside, still in the stand, still twisted with holiday lights.
I usually like to leave the tree up past New Year’s. I like the way the lights look at night, I enjoy the festive atmosphere it lends to the house.
This year was a little different. Thanks to my entire family losing a war against a stomach virus the past week, our Christmas cheer left a bit early.
Todd and I both went to work yesterday, even though we were both feeling like we were gut punched repeatedly by Godzilla. We spent the day exchanging “woe is me” emails, filled with one upmanship as to who was feeling the worst. At some point, my mother called to say that my father had been hit with the virus. I told her that my pain was probably greater than his and she should call back when she had some real war stories to share.
I’m telling you, this thing has taken its toll on us.
By the time I left work yesterday, I was ready for bed. But that was not to be. I had a dog to walk. Children to feed. A house that was trashed by two days of letting the dog and the cat run wild because our desire to discipline waned in direct proportion to the amount of time we spent in the bathroom. The kids, who seem to have escaped the virus, ran away to friends’ houses so as not to get contaminated.
I entered the silent house, thinking I’d just clean up a little, walk the dog, feed the cat and go to bed to wait for Todd – who had to work overtime – to get home so we could lay there and bitch and moan and compare vomit amounts.
An easy clean up was not to be. Someone forgot to gate the dog into the office, and she must have spent a few hours going to various rooms in the house and dragging out her “prizes” – socks, shoes, slippers, underwear, a bra, a pair of pants, a roll of toilet paper and a magazine. These things were strewn all over the living room and, in the case of the last two, torn to smithereens. And that wasn’t it. The dog and the cat decided to use the Christmas tree as their private playground. There were balls everywhere, ornaments with teeth marks scattered all over the room and a thin layer of pine needles covered the carpet. The carpet that we just installed in August. Three months before getting a puppy, and a real Christmas tree.
I looked at the animals, I looked at the floor, I looked at the tree and at the myriad presents still thrown under it, I looked at the messy state my kitchen was in and the empty boxes and pieces of wrapping paper everywhere and decided that Christmas was officially over. Despite the pains in my stomach, the chills, the aches, the headache and the burning desire to sleep next to the toilet bowl, I went on a Christmas Cleanup rampage.
First I took the dog’s collection of prizes and threw them in the laundry. Then I picked up all the pieces of magazine and toilet paper. I swallowed some Pepto and a handful of Advil and carried on , even though my brain was saying something like “Hey, Dumbass. Go to bed.”
I tried to vacuum up the pine needles, but my vacuum sucks. Or, doesn’t. So I would vacuum for five minutes, turn it off, force all the carpet fuzz and needles out of the hose, reattach, vacuum for five more minutes, rinse, repeat. After half an hour I become so frustrated and angry that I started to tear at the remaining ornaments on the tree, sure that if I at least got the tree out of the room, it would look cleaner, stay cleaner, and I’d feel much better.
While I was ripping the ornaments off, the cat was chasing me around the tree. The dog was chasing the cat. Each time I dropped a ball, both of them would pounce on it. Whoever lost the fight for the ball would go back to nipping at my heels. Twice, I tripped over an animal, taking a handful of branches down with me, scattering even more needles into the carpet.
I started to take the lights off the tree – apparently we thought it necessary to put FIVE tightly wound strings of lights on it – and they kept getting stuck and tangled in the branches. Meanwhile, the cat was tearing apart a sentimental ornament. I went to pull her away from it and tripped over a box, which sent me sprawling into the garbage pail, which fell over, spreading all the pine needles and carpet fuzz I just emptied out of the vacuum back onto the carpet.
I started crying. Then I got angry. I growled. I took the tree in one hand, brought the whole thing down and hauled it out the front door, with lights and stand still intact. I dragged it to the side of the house, trailing needles, branches, water, lights and ornaments, while my neighbor stared incredulously at me (probably because I was growling thunderously about hating Christmas), and dumped it on the side walkway.
I went back in the house, caged the dog in the office, threw the cat out, vacuumed what I could, swiped all decorations off the windowsill into a box, put the couch back by the window and sat there rocking back and forth in a fetal position, willing myself not to puke, until Todd got home.
And that’s why my Christmas tree is outside with the lights and stand still on it.