Monday, January 11, 2010

Christmas Lights (and other Christmas Joys)

My kids are sweet. I love my kids. I really do. But the day started out with them complaining that it didn't 'feel' like Christmas.

They had a point. It was less than two weeks before Christmas and even though the kids 'Holiday Cheer' was quite elevated, I was already starting to get a little "OC" (Over Christmas) - I recognize my mental state and fully commit to maintaining my usual sunny disposition and truly enjoy these precious moments - even if I don't feel like it...

Nick, Lane and I were head to Mayfaire to find Mom the 'perfect' Christmas gift. For the record, and well, how shall I put this? Mom is pretty particular and does most of her own shopping. There had been a couple of 'jewelry incidents' in the past and so the boys and I try to focus on more practical opportunities. It's a mutual understanding within our household so this shopping trip is more for ceremonial or traditional purposes with the 'thought is what really matters' resonating through my head.

We land at Williams-Sonoma and start making the rounds through the 'filled to capacity' store. After about three loops and I am starting to see some cracks in the Spetrino family armor.

Keep in mind, I'm a Buyer not a Shopper, I like to identify a product, make a quick decision, promptly pay and be on my way... Nick and Lane are learning this valuable and efficient trait too. So the three of us do what any proactive Spetrino would do - we find a sweet little lady in an apron and ask for help. And within moments we are staring at the most incredible pasta maker you have ever seen.

"Once you have fresh pasta you'll never go back to store bought!" our WS Little Helper announces. (Side Note: Kathy is not a very good cook, and she will admit it.)

I look at the price, $79 (seems pricey but OK) and it attaches to the mixer we already have (bonus). I turn around to verify with the rest of my crew only to see them sampling peppermint bark.

I thank my very helpful sales associate and head for check out - keeping an eye on the kids to make sure that they don't do their own "OC" by overdosing on the hot cocoa samples (mmm, just what Lane needs, more chocolate).

The line is long but time passes quickly as I make small talk with my 'line mates' - the holidays are such a good time for being neighborly and enjoying one anothers fellowship, until I look across the store and see one of the kids swinging a meat clever the size of a chain saw...

But I can't be distracted, I'm next up at the register!

"Did you find everything you needed?"

"Yes, thank you"

"What is your zip code?"


"Would you like to provide us with your email address so we can update you with all of our Williams Sonoma news, events and specials?"

"No thank you"

"Great, that will be $190.63"

"What!? $190?"

I spin the box around. That 'thing' in front of the 7 is a 1 - not a dollar sign. Oh no... wow, how did I miss that? Am I already losing my sight? This isn't happening...

"Um, OK" - and as I hand the clerk my debit card I quickly do the math in my head. "If a box of pasta costs a dollar and we eat pasta 3 times a month... oh no... and we still have to 'buy' the ingredients and 'make' the pasta..."

My fledging Christmas cheer evaporates. I pay for our new pasta maker, grab the kids (put the kitchen knives that they have been testing out away) and head to the car shaking my head and talking to myself.

I put the bag in the back of the car, the kids are buckled and as we head down the road I look back to see Nick staring out window - looking off into the distance. Uh oh, I know this look.

"What's the matter Nick?"

"It still doesn't feel like Christmas"

"What do you mean? We just got mom a super-amazing pasta maker - she is going to be so excited!"

"It's just different from how it was last year..."

Hmm, last year. Yes, last year.

Last year was the Christmas home tour for the Historical Society.

Last year was 5 holiday parties. Last year was three Christmas trees, a fully decorated house and fresh garland throughout.

Last year was professional photographers and a flood of people.

He is quite correct. This year was no last year and I could not agree more.

"Well, that's OK Nick, it's just different. We did a lot of things last year and this year is still going to be great, it will just be a little more simple that's all"

"But", I can hear the quiver in his voice, " we don't even have our Christmas lights up in front of the house."

I want my kids to be happy but I WILL NOT spend the entire weekend trying to 'dress' those crepe myrtles in our front yard again. The prospect of standing on an 8' tall ladder with the only thing to break my fall being an impalement by our iron gate just wasn't going to be an option this year. The memory is still too fresh from last year.

"I know what we can do when we get home guys, we can take some of the lights and decorate the bushes along the porch" - just not the crepe myrtles I murmur to myself.

The kids perk up quickly, they are excited and can't wait to get home and start 'helping me' decorate.

Look, I'm not going to make any excuses for being lazy or for being slack - I just don't feel like putting up (and taking back down) lights this year - don't judge me.

We have a lot of lights in the garage. I mean cases of white lights. Enough to make Clark Griswold turn the shade of holly with envy.

We pull out a couple of bins, some extension cords and within just a few minutes, "wow" it looks like a modest, simple Christmas in our front yard. I announce the victory to the kids, congratulate them accordingly.

It's late afternoon, we've been running errands all day. Dad's going to take a break.

"Hey Dad, would it be OK if we added a few more lights to the small bushes?"

"Sure, knock yourself out, just don't make a mess..."

And like every stereotypical Dad in the free world, I head inside to the comfort of my home and plop down in front of the TV. It was all I could do as I enjoyed the unusual sounds of peace and quiet on a late Saturday afternoon.

2 hours later it's dark and the kids tell me that the lights won't come on in the front of the house.

That's strange, so after a few quick troubleshooting points I find the circuit breaker has tripped. I flip the switch and I can hear the shouts of delight from upstairs.

I walk out onto the front porch and every single string of lights we own have illuminated our street. The bins and boxes are strewn across the lawn and up the driveway. And there is no organization to the lights - they are everywhere. Up the walkway, across the grass.

It's as if someone sprayed electric 'silly string' across the entire front yard. It's not a holiday extravaganza - it's chaos.

My first thought? If Kathy sees this I am never going to hear the end of it, for several reasons.

My second thought? Well, now it actually feels like Christmas.

Oh, and Christmas morning with the pasta maker?

"Are you crazy? What on Earth are we going to do with a $200 pasta maker?"
(which was never opened and promptly returned...)


Anonymous said...

So funny Dave! if it makes you feel any better we have a WS pasta maker from our wedding that deposits little shards of metal in the dough if you actually try to use it.

I have found the best use for it is to place it on the kitchen counter and sprinkle flour around it right before a dinner party where I serve store bought pasta. It was free though...

Jessica Cannon



This is wonderful!! I always could depend on you,and you on me, FOR A GOOD HEARTED LAUGH!

As a pilot, perhaps you should have thought the string of lights depicted in your pic might have been something more than what you could see, for I hear from NASA the strand of lights, seen from space, looked like a perfect landing strip, for one Saint Nick...????!!!! :)

Mike G