One cannot decorate alone | Living with Gleigh

I was joy deficient the other day as I was attempting to decorate the house for Christmas. My husband was at work, my kids at school. I put lights on the tree, got out the Nativity scene village, then stalled.

It didn't feel joyful, it felt like drudgery. We had taken the bins out of the attic days before and I was already sick of the chaos. I finally mustered up the energy to shower at 2:00pm before I picked my kids up from the bus. I figured I'd scare them if I was still dressed in yesterday's clothes with my stocking cap covering my bed hair (by then hat hair).

I whined to my kids in the car ride home and they asked me if I'd like help and I told them I did, but quite honestly could not fathom having the motivation to help them help me. Around 6:00pm, I drug myself into the family room where my husband watched TV. He'd gotten home late because he had to do his certifications and was eating his dinner. He suggested I only do the minimal amount. But what's a minimal amount when I couldn't even muster the energy for that?

He told me to take a break. I told him I'd taken a break all day and it just wasn't working for me, but we might as well get it over with so we can get all the bins put back in the attic and at least free me of the mess.

We roused the kids and started in. As I watched my daughters decorate the tree, I realized I hadn't decorated the tree myself since they were old enough to put an ornament on it by themselves. I’m not one to have a fancy tree; it’s always been kid-oriented and a task I’ve always let them do on their own. I never even “re-did” their child-like arrangement, as I wanted it to be part of their Christmas tradition.

When they were little, I tried to start a family tradition of going out and cutting down our Christmas tree. We found a place with inexpensive trees and although the kids liked the idea, when we got there they soon became miserable out in the weather. After that I began to just buy trees at local vendors.

One summer our neighbor was having an estate sale. They had a small, artificial tree for sale. As I really didn’t like having to keep a tree alive for those weeks in Christmas, not to mention the expense, I decided I would really enjoy having that fake tree (okay, it was $5, who wouldn’t enjoy that?).

We had that tree for several years until my daughters both got taller than the tree. It made my Christmas pictures of them decorating just looked pathetic. After Christmas that year, my husband and I went to Fred Meyer. They had floor model trees for about a third of the cost. My house is a tricky place to put a tree because the space I have for it is rather narrow. But we found a great, tall, slim tree for $50 and brought it home. It was guaranteed to be taller than my daughters for the remainder of their decorating years.

I thought of our tree history as I watched my daughters harmoniously decorate the tree. I snapped a few pictures and listened to their friendly banter. They discussed how in the past they've always been mad at each other while decorating the tree and how this year it was nice that they weren't. I had no idea they'd always been angry at each other while performing this task. It made me laugh and made me smile to hear them reminisce about their past selves.

My family rescued me from my joy deficiency and I realized one cannot decorate alone.

Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is committed to writing about the humor amidst the chaos of a family. You can also read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website Her column is available every week under the Lifestyles section.

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