This is the first year my fiancé and I are in a shared home for the holidays. We were prepared for all the usual holiday issues blended families face: children not getting along, coordinating holiday dates with the ex, etc. What I didn’t anticipate was sharing the décor.
My goal for the holidays has always been understated elegance. I liked to put a few silver kugels in a blue and white bowl and tie a festive tartan ribbon around the neck of my antique Staffordshire dogs. Of course we have always had a Christmas tree with the requisite glued-together macaroni ornaments the children made in school and the Elmo ornaments from their childhood sprinkled among the European glass. It went up as late in the season as possible and came down December 26th. Actually that’s not quite true – the tree came down several times throughout the season — leaving broken ornaments, water and needles all over the floor. As a single parent, I mastered everything from fixing the washing machine to negotiating the price of a car, but I never could manage to keep a tree upright. Perhaps it’s not a surprise I wanted to minimize the season.
My fiancé, on the other hand, loves the holidays. This year, as I set out my glass pinecones and hung small wreaths over the gilt mirrors, he pulled out a dozen Rubbermaid bins, each of which contained the contents of several Hallmark stores. Out came bears wearing Santa hats and Christmas-themed coffee mugs. He emptied a Costco sized box of AA batteries to power up dancing snowmen, a Santa lounging in a bathtub and a character from The Year Without a Santa Clause who gyrates like a drunken Chippendale dancer while swinging a lasso made of snow.
It takes some getting use to. It’s not that I didn’t have some inkling this might happen. We’ve been together through several Christmases, and I knew he was in possession of these things.
Last spring I saw all of the boxes marked “Christmas” loaded onto the moving truck. I just never conceptualized the reality of living with it all 24/7 for six weeks of the year.
And now, here it all is, on every conceivable surface of the house.
The reality is, his approach to Christmas is likely the better one. It’s a holiday about family and joy and believing in the unbelievable. After all, there aren’t a lot of spirited Christmas songs about aesthetic balance and a sense of decorum.
The most interesting part of being in a relationship is being exposed to someone else’s approach to life. I bring a sense of taste and style. He brings fun and a sense of relaxation and a Christmas tree that stays upright. If that means my embracing a singing Santa in a bathub, that seems like a pretty great deal.
Just a reminder… We’re reading Plum Johnson’s They Left Us Everything this month for the 1010 Park Place book club, meeting on December 13th. This is a great book about the legacy our parents leave us, both materially and in terms of our character. We hope you join us then!