I worked hard. I dug out treasure boxes of Christmas decorations that live in boxes downstairs for 11 months of the year.
I rearranged and organized and dusted.
And, finally, I stood back and admired my handiwork.
It was done.
My girlfriend even said it herself.
“Your living room looks like a page out of a magazine advertising Christmas. “Thank you,” I said, feeling happiness bubble up inside of me like the bubble lights we used to have on our Christmas tree in days of old.
Inside myself, a less-than-perfect housekeeper who fights against disorganization and often loses, lives an interior decorator. And she, like the Christmas decorations that live under the stairs for most of the year, only seems to come out at Christmas.
Well, that is not entirely true. My girls told me once that even if I cooked them a hotdog or Kraft dinner, I would put out a candle or flowers or something on the table to make it look pretty.
Years ago, when Moby Dick was a minnow and I was a child living in a bachelor pad with my dad and my brothers, I tried, oh so hard, to bring the interior decorator inside of me to life.
Even in that old house with the cracked worn linoleum and curtainless windows and stained wallpaper I tried, in my own childish, humble way, to create beauty.
Christmas came to that bachelor pad every year just like it was supposed to.
If I close my eyes against time and distance, I can still see my dad, wearing one of those ridiculously long winter coats made of some undistinguishable material, standing in the doorway holding a very real Christmas tree he had, no doubt, chopped down from somewhere.
My brother and I carefully decorated that tree, and my brother, being somewhat of a genius in my eyes, fashioned a perfect star out of cardboard and tinfoil. I was so proud of us in that moment in time.
But even with the bubble lights and the perfect star I knew that tree was not quite what it should be.
“It’s the tinsel that makes the tree,” my sister always said. I pondered her words.
But how to get more tinsel?
That was when my interior decorator self popped up and blurted out the words, “Use the silver paper in your dad’s roll-your-own cigarette package”.
And so, I did, painstakingly cutting strips of the thin silver paper and carefully placing it on the tree.
It did the trick, shimmering in the reflected glow of the bubble lights just like real tinsel.
Today I carefully place a tiny glass ball on my tree up close to the top near the angel. The paint has chipped off slightly, but the name of my daughter scratched on its surface is still visible. A crudely coloured brown cardboard cow made by my five-year-old son also has a place of honour, close to the ball.
And finally, a beautifully multicoloured cloth ball made by child number three is safely nestled in the branches.
These decorations have followed me through a lifetime of Christmases reminding me, once again, of the simple, magical moments of the season.
It is like stripping away the tinsel and the glitter and the fake jolliness that seems to show up right on schedule during this time of year and finding that one thing.
The one thing that matters. The one thing that makes it all worthwhile.
Treena Mielke is a central Alberta writer. She lives in Sylvan Lake with her family.