Christmas at our house was a cross between Fezziwig’s party and a root canal. There was serious intent to celebrate with a simultaneous — and cross-purposed — intent to make everything just so. Take it from me: celebration and just so do not co-exist in tranquility.
To me, Christmas was the highlight of the year. Aside from my grandmother’s rages, I loved everything about it, even playing Christmas carols in the summer. (Oddly, my parents objected.) Books on Christmas crafts, Aunt Mary’s spritz recipe, the red plastic Christmas cookie cutters — delirium! transcendence! I stared at Christmas lights as I would an archangel.
But then the tree. Mom dragged me into bitter cold to tree shop under bare light bulbs that dangled in a most unstarry-like aspect over trees stiffer than I was. Only one tree in a million met her standard of just so. I have never warmed up.
Dad had to make the tree fit our living room, which was finite in the extreme. Drag it in, drag it back out. Saw. Repeat. Needles flipping everywhere. Sap-sticky and frozen, Dad was distinctly unmerry.
After they wrestled it into a militarily upright position, the decorating began. Lights with daisy-like reflectors, then ornaments, then tinsel — all according to The Rules, which were immutable for tinsel. One strand at a time, individually smoothed, gently draped at the tip of the branch, one side longer than the other — NEVER hung at the half-way point — MOM! GET A GRIP!
In the end it was, of course, magnificent. I peeked at it reverently from my bed at night. And thus was born my suspicion that the way to Fezziwig was through just so.