Hooray, December is upon us! Like a crushing weight in your heart! Upon us like a thousand years of late tax returns!
I don’t quite know what it is about December that makes me so down in the dumps every year, except oh yes, maybe I do. Maybe it’s the way the end of the year looms like a horrendous deadline for all the things you promised yourself you’d achieve this year and didn’t. Maybe it’s all the things you have to do and buy and attend and make a costume for and take a plate to. Maybe it’s because you have to decide on a Christmas tree.
Historically, choosing a tree hasn’t been a problem in our family. Because historically we’ve just bought a massive chopped down tree if we are going to be at home for Christmas, and used a large plastic tree if we are going away.
But this year, although we are home for the holidays, H has come over all Sting and doesn’t want a nice chopped-down pine. He’d rather we have a tiny potted facsimile of a Christmas tree that you decorate, leave inside for a fortnight, then banish to the garden, before you go to haul it out next Christmas and realize it is dead, just like the lovely big purpose-grown Christmas tree you passed up this year. He thinks he is saving a Christmas tree life, but he is wrong. All Christmas trees are meant to die. That is their purpose. They are the gladiators of the tree world. We kill them for our sport.
We discussed which tree we would get at dinner last night. After a fair bit of back and forth about the cut versus live versus plastic debate, and although I am clearly right to want a cut tree, we settled on a potted live tree, because I have learnt the art of battle picking and I’ll be damned if I pick my Christmas battle on the second day of the month. Keep your festive powder dry, that’s what thirty-seven Christmases on this planet have taught me. Who knows what the twenty-third of the month will bring?
‘Okay,’ I said in a manner both gracious and magnanimous. ‘They have some potted trees up at the shops. We’ll get one in the morning.’
‘Nooo! We have to get it tonight!’ wailed May Blossom.
‘Because they might have sold out by tomorrow,’ she replied.
Seamlessly taking up the panic baton, Garnet joined in: ‘And if we don’t have a Christmas tree then we can’t have Christmas and that means Santa won’t come and there won’t be any presents!’
‘Calm down,’ I told them. ‘You are being catastrophists.’
‘What’s a catastrophist?’ Garnet asked.
‘A catastrophist is someone who assumes the worst will happen in a situation and who thinks up elaborate and unlikely potential disasters about everything you tell them.’
‘Like if I said we needed a Christmas tree,’ chimed in H, ‘and then Mummy said “Oh no! We can’t get a Christmas tree because there might be a bear living in it and it will leap out and eat us all.”’
Which of course then led Garnet wanting a Christmas tree with a bear living in it, and so the argument stretched from plastic, cut or potted, to plastic, cut, potted or bear-infested Christmas trees.
Once I finally put my foot own and declared we would have a small, bear-free potted tree, we could go back to the regular dinner table conversation, which at the moment involves things like explaining the concept of royalties to Garnet, in an effort to persuade him that it isn’t worth the effort for him to release his own song ‘Who Let The Seals Out’ as a single, given how much money he would have to pay the the Baja Men, from whose song ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ he has borrowed heavily.
Once we reached some sort of agreement on that front we moved on to them being angry at me that the massive ice-cubes they had taken from the freezer were too big for them to get into their mouths to crunch. I knew this would be the case and yet some part of me hoped they could manage it because then perhaps they would stop talking for a minute or two, but alas, no.
The meal culminated in me cracking it and in a voice with more than a hint of hysteria telling them to put the ice into their drinks and leave it there there because that is what ice is for, chilling things and then I realized everyone was looking at me with faces that plainly said ‘Oh the irony of you talking to us about chilling things out, you immense bellowing stress fairy.’ I asked to be excused from the table.
So this year we have a modest but still living tree in a pot. It is fine. It doesn’t knock anyone’s socks off, but it is fine. It is the Anthony Michael Hall of Christmas Trees.
It is not a tree the Kardashian-Wests would have, and that is confusing to me because this week we also paid to have someone not only deliver but come over to build a piece of IKEA furniture, and that surely puts me in the realm of the Kardashian-Wests. This came about because I was at the IKEA desk for people whose spatial perception doesn’t extend to their car, arranging for an adequately-sized vehicle to deliver a bed to our house. The sales assistant asked if we wanted assembly as well as delivery and suddenly I was not a north shore lady in IKEA but a badass rapper shouting “Dolla billz, dolla billz” and throwing my cash all over the place. Honestly, what was I thinking? Who doesn’t assemble their own IKEA furniture? I think I must have had a sudden deep impulse to keep my marriage intact, because, as H has sensibly pointed out before, there is no album called ‘Love Songs in the Key of Allen’.
Now the bed has been delivered, and I’ve realized that IKEA surliness is not negotiable. It’s like a minimum emotional spend, because even if it’s not you and your husband being shitty to each other as you try to negotiate three gigantic flatpacks and two mattresses into your car, IKEA has hired the surliest delivery drivers ever, so you get someone else’s husband coming over and being surly about the flatpacks. There is no escape.
I can’t wait to see what it’s like when IKEA sends someone else’s husband round to assemble the bastard flatpacks on Tuesday. I will probably have to give him the silent treatment and then passive aggressively make him his favourite cake.