Thursday, December 22, 2011

On Christmas Morning

I am not an electrician. I do understand basic wiring though. Over time I have installed an array of ceiling fans, exhaust fans, grounded outlets, programmable thermostats and dimmer switches in my home. Why then can setting up a Christmas tree baffle me?

In years past, my fair lady and I would take the kids, a thermos of hot chocolate and a bow saw for a long ride upstate to find a fresh tree we could fall in love with for the holidays. But that tradition came to an abrupt end one New Year's Eve when the live evergreen, smartly displayed in our living room, pushed the envelope of fair lady’s allergies too far and we found ourselves watching the ball drop in the emergency room at North Shore hospital. Hives, which were the size of quarters, combined with a general feeling of misery and ushered in our new tradition.

We now knock aside a few boxes from the garage rafters and I barely avoid a hernia while sauntering away with the biggest, most swollen, weathered and clumsy box of the bunch. Charged full by assorted metal rods and a simulated balsam I limp through our front door, release my grip and flinch from the thud of ninety-five pounds as it is plopped on my porch floor. We then begin the assembly.

There is a main wire running down the trunk of the tree and plugs labeled one, two and three need to be connected. Things get murky from here. I suppose the previous years of hurry up and get it done packing away have not helped and some of the labels from the remaining eight connections to be made are missing. Matching wires that read D9 and F21 also tends to frustrate me a bit when I would prefer color codes like black to black, white to white, or even red to red. And this year we ran aground at a new problem. We found four male connections to pair with five female connections. Evidently, somewhere in our aforementioned cramming we tangled a green wire so tightly among green branches that no matter how hard we looked or hobbled down under the needles the only result was simultaneous scratching of our skin and heads.

Thirty minutes later we nodded in unison and agreed that proper placement of the ornaments and beads would provide enough twinkling to offset the unlit lights in strand number two.

Luckily my wife has a special touch when it comes to decorating. The tree looks wonderful, though we know it’s not perfect. And that thought happens to resonate well with me and my understanding of Christmas.

For whether one is a believer or not, the story of Jesus is an important piece of humanity. The account of this great man among men, the prince humanitarian, whose birth is celebrated on Christmas day, and who would later be crucified, captures human existence well. Through it, we can see the best of mankind’s potential pitted against the worst of mankind’s imperfection.

So on Christmas morning when I am led down to the tree by my family, I will not be longing for memories of us and a couple of cats ready to pounce on the splendid re-creation of an Adirondack mountain scene commingled among string, bows and crystal decorations. Nor will my deepest joy arise from the sight of distinctive gifts left around our tree apron by Saint Nick.

Instead, a missing strand of lights will link what my heart feels and what my head should already know. I will be reminded that humility is the key to humanity and that, with grace on our side, any of us can achieve greatness. Yet, even with grace, none of us can escape the human element of our imperfection.

And perhaps there really is a Higher Power.

© Christopher’s Views 2011