Monday, December 24, 2012

The Night Before Christmas

I had regretfully decided not to put up a Christmas tree this year.  For the second year in a row, the timing just didn't seem to work out.  I never think I get enough out of a tree if it is only up for a week or so, I really need several weeks with the thing to get my full enjoyment.  This year, as last, that didn't seem to be in the cards.  I closed Midsummer in NY only a week ago, then packed up and drove to DC the next day.  My hacking cough has hung on tenaciously, zapping my energy and making me feel yucky, and all week I was busy getting things in order for my family Christmas.  In addition, I was trying to prep for an audition on Thursday.

So, I just did not have the time to get out to buy a tree, much less the energy. 
This is what my apt looks like when in full decorating mode.

My Honda is not built to carry a tree, so transport is always an iffy proposition. 
As I live alone, the hauling of the tree up to the third floor of the DC Branch is all on me, as is the retrieval of boxes and boxes of decorations from the basement, four long flights away. So I have a good excuse when I decide I must forgo a tree.

Today, Christmas Eve, I dashed down to the new DC Costco to pick up a few munchies for tomorrow's Christmas Dinner.  On the way home, I passed a Christmas tree lot, which still had lots of inventory but no customers.  Who the hell would buy a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve?  When I was growing up, I would occasionally see a TV episode where the family was trimming their tree on Christmas Eve;  it never made sense to me.  Why not have it in your home to enjoy longer than a few days?

For some reason, though, I was feeling a bit nostalgic for Christmas Eves past when I drove past the lot.  A couple of blocks later, I pulled a U-Turn and headed back.  Yes, I bought a Christmas tree.  On Christmas Eve.  What a yutz.

That tree, smaller than others I've had but just as lopsided, is now decorated and sitting in my bay window. 
If a tree leans to the left, is it still as pretty?

It's a tradition now, that all my trees lean sideways, there seems to be nothing I can do about it.  I've convinced myself it's charmingly eccentric, just like I convince myself that I am too.  I'm pretty lousy at decorating a tree, practice does not make perfect in this case.  The lights are invariably unevenly placed, and no matter how hard I try, the ones that blink always end up surrounding the bottom of the tree.  In the dark, it looks like half the tree disappears for a few seconds before rematerializing.  And don't get me started on my ornaments, which are mismatched, cheap, and pretty ugly.  I really need some new balls.

Today, my thoughts have gone back to the many years I worked on Christmas Eve.  I'm not talking about my performance work, though I've done my share of Christmas shows.  When I lived in Los Angeles, I spent 15 years in retail, overlapping with 13 years in food service, so I know a little something about working Christmas Eve.  You know what?  I usually enjoyed it.  There was a camaraderie among those of us who were at work on that holiday eve. 
Not Christmas, but Halloween. This pic always
reminds me of my Sears Ladies, the middle-aged
women in the office who tended to me while my
mother struggled, then succumbed, to cancer.

I worked 15 years in the Sears Customer Service Department during my college years and beyond (we didn't call it the Complaint Department, but that was what it was).  Christmas Eve was never a busy day in that office, as everyone was going crazy on the sales floor, but very few people were complaining.  (It was the day AFTER Christmas that you did not want to be on duty.)

I also worked many, many Christmas Eves as a waiter.  Customers were usually in jolly moods and had holiday generosity that day, and often felt sorry for the poor waiter who had to work, so it was a good day to make money. My family has never had a strong tradition on Christmas Eve, so I never felt as if I was missing much by working a Christmas Eve shift.   
I worked in 4 restaurants over a 13 year period, and each one had a staff which became a squabbling, unruly, but loving family. There was always a "Us vs. Them" feeling in the restaurant business, where everyone banded together to feed the hordes.  This was my first gig as a waiter, I'm on the lower right in the plaid shirt.
As I think of it, the only consistent Christmas Eve tradition I have had, at least in my adult life, was the movie outing a group of us used to take late in the night.  Lots of high class movies open during the Christmas season, and my buddies Valerie and Ronnie used to arrange to catch the late night showing of one of them on Christmas Eve.  It was always the last show of the night, giving everybody time to fulfill their family obligations before heading out for a midnight show, and we were usually the only people in the theatre. I don't know if that tradition is still ongoing among my LA friends, but I have lots of good memories of those nights. 
Year after year, our gang gathered for the midnight showing on Christmas Eve. It was lucky that we were usually the only ones in the theatre, for when we saw turkeys like A Chorus Line, we hooted, hollered, and talked back to the screen. My head only can be seen here, third from the left.
As I look at this lopsided tree twinkling with lights and tilting precariously to starboard, I'm happy to relive those memories of Christmas Eves past.  Good times.