Posted by: joelkeene | December 25, 2017

Christmas Decorating and the Singular We

It’s the Christmas season again, and nothing much has changed. With the finale of Thanksgiving welcomes the responsibilities of climbing to the attic to lug down totes of Christmas decorations, a joint effort that always cracks me up. I love my wife for her unflinching talent using the singular “we.”

“We need to put up the lights outside today.”


Guess I’ll finish watching this show later.

She’s never clipped one light on the gutters. She’s never climbed the ladder to hang a two-foot section of lights only to climb down again, move the ladder two feet and repeat, an exhaustingly tedious task. I’m certain she’s never stepped foot outside while “we” decorate the exterior— sans the occasional commentary on what I’m doing wrong.

Before going outside, though, I reluctantly climb the attic steps and carry down the tubs of Christmas decorations for her. Because anyone can climb seven steps on a ladder, but if that ladder ascends to an attic, it must be a man who ascends!

Back outside I go then. My jacket, my beanie, and my 12-foot ladder. We illuminate Sonora Creek with a contemporary yet tastefully simple celebration of Christmas. An epic feat for “we” indeed.

Fold and hang my ladder, my brow cold but sweaty. Wipe it with my beanie. Unzip my jacket to go inside for a drink and football. Well done, Saul.

It’s not the house I left though. Now the aroma of gingerbread. Now the twinkle of garland hanging from the mantle. Now the melodies of Bing and Buble and She and Him.

From these dusty, plastic tubs, tradition and memory. Hers and mine that we share now.

We dance a bit. A little wine.

Something beautiful.

Nothing much has changed though. I remember listening to Roger Whitaker while my mom decorated the house on Wolf Run three decades ago. The popping of vinyl while she carefully opened boxes of decorations to place around the house and myriad ornaments we had made in Sunday School to adorn the tree.

I had few responsibilities then beyond not being a jerk, and though I messed that up at times, I never did when Whitaker was croonin’. With his melodic narrative of Darcy the Dragon came the magical holiday transformation of the house, and I wasn’t interested in betraying that.

I remember the train platform under the tree, the personalized stockings hung on the mantle, the bobalki my mom wrapped up one year as a sick, cruel joke of a gift for me.

Traditions and memories all the same. Some gone. Some still around. Some a sick, cruel joke waiting to be reciprocated.

And now I’ve heard the Christmas stories and traditions of Cheryl’s family. I hear the same anecdotes every year. Retold so they can remember, and— I like to think— so I can become a part of the tradition as well. Now I know the words, and that is enough. Like music I suppose.

Nothing has changed, and that’s what I was thankful for a few weeks ago. And that won’t change.

“We need to go get a tree.”




  1. A beautiful story. Memories that will last your lifetime. And your love seeps through.
    ❤️ Mom

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