Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Pancake Tuesday Wreath?

On January 6th, which very helpfully fell on a Sunday this year, I was co-opted by a certain party into taking down the Christmas decorations. Apparently this is the day that they have to come down or else you get penalty points on your house insurance or something, so I quickly started untangling wires and unplugging the fibre-optic Santa that my daughter finds so unnerving.
To me of course, it seemed very soon to be taking them down, particularly as we don’t normally put ours up until the weekend before Christmas, on the basis that we’d be fed up of them by the time Christmas comes around. Every year somebody bursts into the kitchen at the end of November to announce that they’ve just seen a house with a Christmas tree in the window and we all tut deprecatingly and say “That’s ridiculous” and “It’s getting earlier and earlier every year.” Although I didn’t actually see it myself, I read on the Beechfield Residents’ website that somebody on that estate had their tree up and lighting on the 1st November, which has to be some sort of a record.
But I duly went about unhooking, untangling and unplugging while my wife wrapped and put them in the boxes that were to go back into the attic until next year, making sure that the unused cards, wrapping paper and crackers were packed in a box to be left next to the attic door, so it should be easy to see if we need to buy any of same next November .
(This is supposed to be a foolproof method but we’ve actually accumulated enough wrapping paper to last us into the next century, so next year I have decided I will set up a stall at the farmer’s market in Ongar and sell it off. I’ve already been practising my “Fifty cent de wrapp’n’ paper. Would ya like a roll, luv?” spiel.)
Finally, when the house seemed as bare as a Minister of Finance’s bank account back in the eighties, I removed the wreath from the front door and was proceeding through the kitchen to hang it on the apex of the shed roof, as is our tradition, when I was stopped by our interior designing expert.
“Where are you going with that?” she asked.
“To the shed, like always,” I answered.
“Oh. I was going to leave it on the front door. There’s nothing wrong with it.”
Of course I know my wife well enough to know that this was not a wistful remark but rather a direct command to go and put it back where I had found it. And, being the dutiful husband that I am, I did so with alacrity.
The wreath remained there all through January. As the needles did not turn brown, there was no reason to consign it to the back garden and here I must complement Dunnes Stores on the wreath’s longevity, which they should use in their advertising next Christmas and if they want to pay me a few shillings for this endorsement, so be it.
If it is still perfectly good, as my wife stated, what is the point of taking it down and leaving it out in the back garden? What was the point, indeed?
Of course, we had to field the occasional puzzled remark from callers. We used up the Russian orthodox Christmas excuse and also the Chinese New Year excuse and I scoured the internet to find other possible feast days that might explain away its presence. A Pancake Tuesday wreath or an Easter wreath, anyone?
It was naturally very handy for giving people directions to our house. “We’re the one near the end of the road with a wreath on the door” became a foolproof way of locating our abode.
I spent a large period of what little leisure time my wife allowed me scouring the local estates to try and see if anybody else still had the wreath in situ. By mid-January, I was starting to widen my search and eventually found such a house in Kilcock, which was a great weight off my mind, and I could stop fretting that we were perhaps unique in the western world.
However it became evident that we had to face up to the reality of the situation and admit that we were the only house in Dublin 15 with a Christmas wreath still on the front door by the time February rolled into town. It was a statement, I told myself. We were telling a disposable world that we would not discard an object simply because society dictated that we should; that we were trying to maintain the natural biodiversity of our house and garden; that we were sending out a signal that a wreath, like a dog, is not just for Christmas.
On my meanderings around the area though, I did notice quite a few icicle lights and one “Merry Christmas” sign still adorning the walls of houses. These unilluminated remnants of the festive season indicated perhaps that they would save the residents time next Christmas. Instead of risking life and limb hanging them up on a freezing cold December afternoon, they need only flick a switch and on they’d come.
However when I suggested to my wife that perhaps we ought to leave the Christmas tree up throughout the year and simply turn it on again in Advent, she gave me one of her famous withering stares that can reduce a man to jelly.
My daughter tried to turn it into a joke. She got a teaspoon from the kitchen drawer (after asking directions from us) and threaded it carefully through the tightly woven foliage.
“Who’s that?” she declared.
Seeing our blank faces, she gave the answer immediately.
“Wreath With a Spoon.”
I have since written her out of my will.
Of course I suspect that many of the neighbours thought that we were just too lazy and could’nt find the time nor the energy to remove the damned thing. The social embarrassment was acute and I took to leaving the house only under cover of darkness and then with a jacket over my head. Eventually, when my wife was up in HMV one day looking for the new Lionel Ritchie album that was rumoured to be the best thing he had done since “Hello,” I decided to take matters into my own hands. Rooting out an old paintbox set, I coloured in a portion of the wreath in a convincing light brown.
“I see the wreath’s starting to go,” I murmured over dinner, as she failed to spot the offending withered patch such was her disappointment following her fruitless shopping trip.
The hapless object is now adorning the shed in the back garden, at last genuinely brown and a sad reminder of a Christmas passed all too quickly.

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