Hello, Hill Country. To all seven of my readers, may I just take a moment to wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season. By the time you are reading this, it will be time for turkey, stuffing, mashed taters, a plethora of casseroles, and pumpkin pie. After that, you can officially begin decorating for Christmas. Don’t worry, the big stores have been stocking Christmas decor for two months already, so it’s not too early to get a jump on the neighbors and get started. On the other hand, perhaps you are dreading the coming weeks and all the chaos they tend to create. Trust me, I get it. There have been years when I would trade all the hype of the season for a cabin in the woods far away from the yuletide cheer. However, I’ve come to learn that, although the moods and sentiments come and go, celebrating the reason for Christmas is a choice, and it’s worth it.

Anyway, back to decorating. There was a time, you see, in the distant past when the Kerr family traditions associated with Christmas were pure and undefiled. For example, I have this foggy, pre-kid memory of setting up the family tree. Not an artificial tree, mind you, like some bah humbug, scrooge types might use, but a genuine, out-and-out real, sort-of-freshly-cut douglas fir.

Kim and I would spend the whole day sprinting through 50 lots selecting the consummate tree; the one that was blemish-free, with no bare spots, perfectly splayed branches, and a flawless isosceles triangular shape. Then we’d take “the chosen one” home and spend the evening engineering a lighting concept that would pass Kim’s “squint test.” We played Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole cassette tapes while dressed in Christmas sweaters, and meticulously decorated our masterpiece. The smell of spicy wassail wafted through the living room, and firelight reflected off the foil and glass decorations. It was so beautiful. At least that’s the way I remember it.

But that was then, and our once pure tradition has evolved or degenerated (I should say) a tad. We have three kids for crying out loud, and we’re too busy screaming at them to quit screaming at each other to mess with a darn tree. Quality time with the family is not measured in hours like it was before the kids came along. It is measured in seconds, when everyone is balanced on the knife’s edge of momentary sanity. Therefore, the degenerated sequence of events involved in setting up the family tree consists of walking to the shop, grabbing my two-wheeled dolly, and rolling this amorphous sheet-covered blob into the living room. Our genuine, imitation douglas fir classic was handmade in China. It’s a dandy, too, with fire-resistant, hand-wrapped, polyethylene pre-lit branches. With a simple click of a toe switch, I can change the lighting display from soft white solid to multi-colored blinking.

Many years ago, in a weak moment of post-Christmas depression, and faced with the daunting task of undecorating, I decided to leave everything on my permanently assembled tree. If I wasn’t quick, I was going to miss my March Madness game, but Kim was threatening me with her infamous frying pan if I didn’t get the tree out of the living room. Wrapping the whole thing (decorations and all) in a king size sheet, I then tied it up with half a mile of twine, wheeled it to the shop, and rammed the darn thing into the corner to live for the next seven months. To the casual observer, this might seem like laziness, but in point of fact (a point that I argue with Kim every year) it’s the most efficient use of energy that I’ve ever come up with. The whole process has become a specific practice of long-standing tradition.

However, don’t let this cause you to think that the Kerrs don’t care about Christmas customs. We still play Bing and Nat while we take the sheet off the tree.

Anyway, I hope you and yours are enjoying your own unique family customs as we finally enter the Holiday season. Just remember the reason for the season, my Hill Country brethren. It’s going to get busy for the rest of the year with parties, presents, and planning. Just be patient, and may I be so bold as to suggest waking up every morning with thankfulness for the blessings you have.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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For comments or questions, contact John Kerr at john@ctcinspect. com.

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