You Get What You Get And You Don’t Fuss A Bit

By Ann Ipock

Well, Christmas is right around the corner, or so it seems, and I’m stumped. I can’t find any Christmas tree lights, and it’s driving me crazy. Not only that, I’m driving Hubby Russell (Oscar the Grouch) crazy with my insistence: “Just pull in here honey. Trust me; this store (being the third one in an hour) might have exactly what I’m looking for!” But they don’t. I keep fussing, and he keeps driving AND fussing.

Do you remember only a few short years ago, okay, maybe it was more like forty long years ago, but who’s counting, when you really only needed three things to go on the dang tree? Colorful ornaments, a string of lights (think the ROY G. BIV color spectrum) and silver tinsel. We didn’t have a zillion choices like we do today. But still, we were more than happy with the simplicity of it all. As my six year-old granddaughter, Madison, was taught in school last spring; “You get what you get and you don’t fuss a bit!” (Thank you, Mrs. Dawson, for the great advice!)

Isn’t Christmas supposed to be a time of joy and not a time of drudgery? But, our choices nowadays for holiday decorating are mind boggling: I mean do we really need feathers, eggs and birds to decorate a Christmas tree? It’s Christmas y’all, not a barnyard story time. This is just one example of many when it comes to “themed” trees. They’re all the rage. Some folks even have a different one in every room of their home; a living room tree, a bedroom tree, a kitchen tree, even a tacky bathroom tree. And the insanity doesn’t stop there. Some holiday nuts affix gorgeous forty-inch fresh organic sage wreaths to the front door. Others have garland-wrapped fireplace mantles with fresh fruit, pomegranates not withstanding. I am serious. Some people display vases of pyracantha, pots of poinsettias and bowls of cinnamon-smelling pinecones. But my favorites are those expensive three-foot tall toy soldiers that stand sentry at your front door. Over the top, you say? Ridiculous? Well, yes. I’m afraid I know all about that because, well, I’ve done many of these myself.

Going back to my Southern childhood, I’ll admit it; I didn’t have that “Nostalgic Norman Rockwell New England Past” as some do. You know, the one where the whole family gets in the station wagon and rides down a long, snow-covered country road searching for that idyllic Christmas tree farm. First off, we didn’t even own a station wagon, and where I lived no one ever heard of a Christmas tree farm. A tobacco farm? Yes. A Christmas tree farm? No. Anyway, once at the farm, the smiling Rockwell group would locate a dazzling specimen of a tree, cut it down, tie it up and bring it home. Then they’d chatter and laugh as they sipped hot apple cider, belted out a few happy carols and spent long hours merrily adorning the perfect tree. I don’t really know anyone who did all that. Oh, yeah I do. That would be Chevy Chase, in the movie Christmas Vacation.

In my family, Dad simply brought home a tree from the local Jaycee Club Christmas tree lot when his volunteer shift was over. Once home, he filled up the red and green metal stand with water and plunked in the tree. Then we kids – Cathy, Nancy, Steve and I – decorated that sucker in about an hour or less. Shoot! We had other important things to do, like play softball, go to cheerleading practice or talk to friends on the phone.

One year, in particular, does stand out though. Evidently the trees were shipped from Quebec, because a young girl there attached a note, written in French, saying she hoped the owners would find joy with the tree. As a coincidence, my sister, Cathy, was studying French in high school. She wrote the girl back, and they remained pen pals for a long time. It was sort of like a message in a bottle, only it was a message on a tree. Though we never shook snow off the tree, we shook the note out of the tree.

And as we Eastern Carolina residents know, we never have snow at Christmas (I only remember that happening once, a few months after Hurricane Hugo in 1989). But we sometimes have sauna-like heat waves. I’ve cooked many a turkey – or attempted to – wearing Bermuda shorts. (That would be me wearing the Bermuda shorts, not the turkey.) I say attempted, because I’ve also: a) caught the turkey and my oven on fire; b) ruined a turkey in our new hickory smoker from too much smoked wood; c) undercooked Cornish hens; and even d) hired a restaurant owner to cook our turkey. In the final case, the giblets, paper and all, were left inside, which rendered the bird inedible. So, if you are wondering – no, we didn’t eat any of those holiday disasters. Let’s just say that nowadays, Russell has the fire department on stand by when I cook these festive meals.

But, let’s get back to shopping for tree lights. I remember distinctly the big mess we had at home last year – broken bulbs, tangled wires, mismatched selections and now-they-work and now-they-don’t (argh!) lights. I vowed to make it better this season. But, I’ve already been to six stores, and I’ve found no lights. Instead, they have out Halloween decorations, probably because Halloween is a mere two weeks away. But, still – get on with it, I say. Call me unreasonable (don’t you dare), but I thought they started displaying Christmas decorations right after Labor Day. I guess not. Maybe we grumbled so much in the past about early stocking that now they’ll be late stocking. Surely they won’t make us wait until after Thanksgiving? I certainly hope not! Anyway, I’m not complaining, since, “You get what you get and you don’t fuss a bit.”

About this writer

  • Ann Ipock Ann Ipock, the first Sasee hat recipient, is the author of the “Life is Short” humor trilogy. She currently writes for four publications and lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, with her husband, Russell.

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