Every year since I was twelve, my best friend, Anna, suckered me and our friend, Jodi, into coming to her house the day after Thanksgiving. After high school we added my friend, Gerry, to the mix. This was not your average get together. We weren’t Black Friday shopping. We weren’t watching movies. We weren’t calling boys. We weren’t playing with a Ouija board, summoning the forces of evil to destroy all the boys who refused to date us. No. We were decorating Anna’s house for Christmas. There were rules and measurements. There were notebooks and checklists. The final stages of inspections came from Anna’s brother, sister, and finally her father, Big Vic.
It all started with the tree. The seven foot monstrosity that greeted you at the door needed crystal clear lights. Not white. Not clear. Crystal clear lights. One hundred per branch. The tree had its own circuit breaker box. We wrapped each strand of lights around the branch in a manner that left no green visible. The lights stayed lit 24/7 from Black Friday straight through until the sixth of January. Boats were pulling in and docking in front of her house. Helicopters tried to land on her roof. I saw her dad’s electric bill one year; it was more than I made all year at my three jobs. After the lights were up and acting as beacons to aliens searching for a landing site, we had to put the ornaments on. Three hundred and fifty ball ornaments. Sixty three feet each of four different garlands. Eighty four family heirloom ornaments. Each spaced so no gaps, bare spots, or color clusters happened. Under the tree was the village. This was a little battery operated town complete with sledders that slid down hills made from the white tree skirts and cotton stuffing, ice skaters twirling on a mirror lake. Santa’s sleigh with nine little reindeer hung by a fishing line from a bottom branch. Rudolph’s nose blinked SOS in morse code. I think he felt our pain. Once the tree was set and acting as a lighthouse for wayward ships on the Delaware River, we moved onto the entertainment center. We might as well have been decorating Macy’s window on Fifth Avenue. We measured and weighed the fake snow on kitchen scales so each individual cubby got exactly the same amount of powdery coating. To get an even coverage we used flour sifters. I plead the fifth when asked who wrote, “I hate Christmas!” next to the Franklin Mint commemorative Godfather chess set. Next was the railing. Five hundred feet of bannister. One thousand feet of garland. Two thousand feet of lights. We used rulers to make sure proper spacing occurred. Three flights of stairs fully decorated for the coming of the baby Jesus. The house was so lit up three wise guys showed up thinking they were following a star. They brought gifts of five pinky rings, all three “Godfather” movies on Blu Ray, and an I Roc Z. We didn’t work for free. My weakness was Anna’s penne pasta with vodka sauce. I said it before and I’ll say it again, Mama didn’t get fat by not eating. I miss that pasta. I miss that sauce. I miss my friends. And I would gladly lose more of my eye sight to that second sun of a tree in my best friend’s living room.