The time for the Griswolding is upon us. In other words, it's time to decorate the house for Christmas.
First up is when to do it. I only have one rule: It has to be December. The last thing I need is to put all the stuff up too early, then get burned out on the whole thing before Christmas even arrives. As for too late, well, we got our tree on Christmas Eve last year, and that may have been a few days too late. It sure seemed that way when we were taking it all down on the 26th. I'm thinking about 10 days of watching a tree die slowly in my living room is plenty, but we'll see.
As for exterior illumination, I usually get that done around the 15th, but this year I'm running late. Back when my kids were little, they'd tell me when it was time, and I'd dial it in. Nowadays, it's all up to me, which is probably why it isn't done yet.
Here's how the whole thing works -- or should: First, we open up our ridiculous shelfful of decorations. My wife decides what level of Christmasyness (actual word) she wants to achieve. Then we go get a tree, which creates a whole other conflict. She's a Noble Fir person, and I'm not. So after we bring home the Noble Fir, I wrestle it into the living room, fill the stand with water and put on the lights. The ornament application is strictly the wife's domain. It's worth noting that I always lobby hard for flocking on the tree, but as it turns out my wife has veto power, so no flocking for us.
While the tree project is going on, I get my ladder, my staple gun, 500,000,000 staples, pliers, a hammer, a jug of water and a first-aid kit, and head out to decorate the house. I get the five giant Rubbermaid storage boxes out of the shed and begin the process of unrolling and testing all those strands of icicle lights. After weeding out the 20 percent of them that invariably die while just sitting there all summer, I'll go out and buy a few more boxes to replace the quitters.
Then, it's up the ladder I go. This process usually starts around noon, and lasts until well after dark. We have a two-story house with a bunch of weird eaves and stuff, and every bit of them has to be covered in lights. My favorite part of the job is hanging over the edge of the roof where it's a 40-foot drop, straight down, should I slip and fall. I have no idea why I even bother with that side because it's only visible to a few houses down the street anyway, but I like to be thorough. I always do that part last, so that if I fall and die, the house will still look pretty great. Plus, if I'm dead, maybe the festive mood created by the lights will help my family get over the loss.
After all the lights are up, I put a stupid wire reindeer at the very top of the house, about 600 feet off the ground. It's one of those things that's just a wire frame that hold the lights in a vague reindeer shape, so that it looks like one of Santa's team has gone rogue and perched itself on my roof. But my grandson Oliver loves that thing, so up it goes. Then, provided everything is working, I call down to the wife so she can come out and give it a look. I know this part is supposed to feel like a heartwarming celebration of the season, basking in the glow of our little tribute to Christmas, but it sure feels like an inspection. I always pass. Then it's back inside for the conclusion of the Griswolding.
Figuring it's time to turbocharge the whole holiday spirit thing, I put on some Christmas music and start wrapping presents to put under the freshly decorated tree. Decorated trees with no presents look weird. This year's soundtrack will be alternating between "Christmas Spirit" by Los Lonely Boys, "Yule Struttin'" by Ray Charles, and "I Wish I Was Santa Claus" by Merle Haggard.
Then, after dinner, the last pre-Christmas ritual takes place. I'll make up a big mug of my favorite yuletide beverage, which I invented, by the way: Ghirardelli dark chocolate cocoa with a shot of Patron coffee-flavored tequila, topped off with whipped cream. I highly recommend it for winding down after a long day decorating the house. Then we pop in the best Christmas movie ever made, "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." We turn off all the lights except for the tree, sip our cocoa, and chill. Tradition dictates that I recite all the lines from the movie right along with the actors: "Can't see the lines, can you, Russ?"
By the time the movie ends, I'm officially ready for Christmas. And I mean ready. All the shopping is done, the plans are all planned, and there's nothing to do but relax and enjoy the best week of the year. SCOTT COX: Snapping out of my holi-daze just in time