Decorating our tree is part yuletide, part disco

First a decision has to be made: round and round, or up and down? This is why I like to work alone. Democracy only gets in the way at a time like this.

I'm not a total autocrat. I like a little input and group participation when it comes to decorations.

But putting the lights on the Christmas tree, believe me, is better done as a one-woman job.

So I wait until everyone's out of the house. They have school, they have jobs. I have lights, I have action. Besides I get fewer complaints this way.

Usually I go around in circles (it's more in keeping with my approach to life), but this year I decide to try something new: an up-and-down Christmas-tree-lighting tactic.

The "nouveau venerable" Real Simple magazine has just announced, on "The Today Show" no less, that Christmas lights are supposed to be hung vertically. That's how they hang 'em on the Rockefeller Center tree.

But I guess I must be vertically challenged: I can't get the hang of it.

At least one thing turns out to be true: Vertical lights are very easy to take down. So easy, in fact, that I decide to keep the eight strands I've already plugged into each other intact. They look so merry and bright. And long.

Why not just hogtie the merry old tree with 18 yards of twinkling rope? Yee-haw!

And so I begin with lights in hand, like a Christmas cowboy. I tend to go counterclockwise. Either direction, I end up dizzy.

After four trips around the tree, I have to stop. Lights are flashing. The room is spinning.

This is less yuletide and more disco. I'm doing the hustle with a blue spruce. I reverse directions and string the lights clockwise now.

I'm still dizzy.

Maybe it's the strong aroma of pine. I can smell it on my clothes; even the dogs seem slightly aromatic. I mean this in a good way. I could go for pine-scented pets on more than a seasonal basis.

Now the tree is listing gently to the right. It's still rooted firmly in its stand, but it seems to be craning its neck to look out the window. Maybe a friend is walking by? Perhaps it knows one of our evergreens?

I try to right it or, rather, left it, but it stands askew anyway. (Later in the evening my husband will come home and reposition my parallelogram tree.)

Finally all the lights are up, so I go outside and take a look.

Other than the 45-degree angle, the tree looks quite nice. It seems to be waving at me. It has a lovely lilt, or tilt. Maybe I should leave well enough alone. We'll call this a new slant on Christmas.

Or the kids can use the decorations as counterweights. More ornaments on one side of the tree than the other may straighten things out.

I go back inside.

There's seems to be movement in our Christmas tree. I'd say it's swaying in the breeze, but it's an indoor tree. It's more like someone far away is calling "timber!" and the tree must respond.

This is when the autocrat in me fades. I need help.

I can't wait for the kids to come home and find me hugging our holiday tree. They'll assume I've gone all hippie on them, or worse, sentimental.

It's not that at all. It's just that I've decided I really don't want our tree to come tumbling down. So until my husband gets here, I guess I'll have to hold on.

It's all right though. With my Christmas sweater, Christmas earrings. and Christmas socks, I could easily pass for an ornament.

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