“I have never seen anything like this!”
“This must take you months to finish.”
“We’re going to refer to your home as ‘Bronner’s East’ from now on.”
“It looks like Christmas threw-up in here!”
These are just a few of the comments I’ve received over the years when people have come by our home during the holiday season and they take in the enormous amount of decorating I do. For me, because it is something that I have been working on and building up to for so many years, it just seems normal. But I understand that the typical person does not spend 6 weeks decorating their home for Christmas, sometimes spending 8 to 10 hours a day for weeks on end to get everything just right. It never ceases to surprise me how taken aback people are when they step through our front door and find themselves surrounded by tradition, decorations, and even a little whimsical fantasy.
Getting to where our home is now was not an easy journey. When Hubby and I got married I had some decorations, but the accumulation through the years is what now consumes so much of my time during October and November every year. At first, Hubby was tolerant of my passion for Christmas, although he himself never understood it or even liked Christmas. As the years passed and my collection of decorations grew, however, the holidays became a time for argument, resentment, and even hostility between us because we were at such opposite ends of the spectrum. Finally, after several years of knocking heads, I sat down with Hubby and asked him how we could get past this. There was no talking to him. He was set in his ways of not understanding or wanting to understand me, and I was forced to either give up my passion for celebrating the holidays the way I really wanted to or continue to have three plus months of unhappiness overshadowing what I thought should be The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.
The trouble with this situation was that I wasn’t really listening to Hubby. Although he wouldn’t come right out and tell me what he didn’t like or what he was upset about, there were many subtle clues that I just refused to listen to or see. Realizing that something had to change because fighting with him every year was getting old, and quick, I finally took a long hard look at what I was doing and how it was affecting him. Thus evolved “The Rules.”
Whenever Hubby would bitch or scream about something that he didn’t like, or make some snide comment in passing (and believe me, there were many), I’d make a note. I am a great note taker. I write everything down. This too has evolved over the years, but now-a-days I write so many notes, that I need notes to remind me to read other notes that remind me to read other notes, etc, etc, etc. Anyway, as I listened to what he was saying, rather than just getting defensive and hurt, I realized that he was right in much of what he was saying. In fact, I learned a lot because of his comments. You could say that I am where I am today in my decorating because of him.
When Hubby took his arm and flung all the Christmas knickknacks that I’d put on the end table next to his chair high into the air and they came crashing to the ground, breaking several beyond repair, it was his subtle way of telling me that he didn’t want “his” space cluttered. Perhaps he could have found a nicer way of expressing this to me, but for years I wouldn’t listen anyway, so his resentment was completely understandable.
When Hubby came storming out of the bathroom and yanked all the cords from our family tree out of the wall, literally ruining many of the wires and making it so only half our tree actually lit the rest of the season, because the circuit breaker had jumped AGAIN while he was blow drying his hair, he was reminding me that there are other people in our home that have needs that require electricity and I shouldn’t overload the circuits. At the very least, I shouldn’t turn on the lights while he was getting ready.
And when Hubby stood in the center of our great room surveying my decorations and everything that I’d spent weeks trying to make “just perfect” and said, “It looks like you just dumped a bunch of Christmas decorations out of their boxes and threw them every which way.” I was devastated, but after I calmed down I took a look and realized he was right. There was no rhyme or reason, just decorations, lots of decorations, put everywhere and anywhere I could fit them. I realized then, I needed a plan.
There were many other comments, all spat out with his usual patience and understanding (NOT!), that I began to take to heart and really look at, and finally settled on a list of “Rules” that I thought would help us somehow come to mutual understanding. He wasn’t going to change, and so he shouldn’t have to. My passion for decorating could still be fulfilled without being a thorn in his side. I knew I could do it. I had a new mission: To make Christmas a time when the whole family could be at peace together, even among all the baubles and bells.
My mission sparked the need for a Decorating Bible. Something that would spell out what to do, how to do it, where to plug it in, and how to accomplish it in a way that would be conducive for everyone. It has taken many years and continues to grow and evolve every year, but today I have a three-inch binder and three or four additional notebooks with explicit instructions on how to decorate every room, where to run the wires, which circuit they are on, how much power they require, if there are any glitches (meaning if the lights need to stay off until Hubby finishes drying his hair), and what changes/additions to make in the future.
The very first section in my binder (after the introduction explaining what this binder is), the one that is read prior to me starting any decorating every year, is called “THE RULES.” In this section are all the rules that I have ascertained through the years from Hubby and just plain common sense (something that seemed to elude me during those first few terrible years of marriage and decorating). After so many years of decorating now, some of these rules seem so obvious, yet I do not want to forget or digress, so I keep them there as a reminder.
Hubby and I have now been married for 22 years and we have both matured, grown, and mellowed. Now, although I do my best not to upset Hubby with my decorating, he is far less violent when it comes to reminding me if I cross the line. Also, he has actually told me for several years running now that he really thinks the house looks beautiful. In fact, for the past couple years he has suggested inviting various friends over to see the house, something he would never have done ten years ago.
I cannot tell you how much nicer it is now come October when I start dragging out the boxes and ladders, preparing for the great Christmas decorating transformation and Hubby actually tells me that it’s okay if I have a bit of a mess with the decorations when he gets home. It used to be that if I were decorating, I had to be sure to have the mess all cleaned up before he got home or I’d get grief for it. He now realizes that the mess is only temporary and a necessity during the transformation.
Marriage is so difficult. I am glad though that I finally “listened” to what Hubby was saying and now we have come to a mutual understanding of Christmas and my passion for decorating. He may not share my love for every aspect of the holidays, but he tolerates and even supports it now, and for this I am — Ever So Simply Grateful!