It is late. I am tiptoeing down the stairs in my stocking feet for a glass of water. The house is dark and the Christmas lights have punched their card for the evening. Santa will not work his magic for a few days yet.
Halfway down the stairs I step on a needle from the once fresh garland that wraps the banister; and in my frenzied attempts to get it out of my foot while I hop around on one leg I brush against the once bright Norway Spruce – which rains a thousand needles onto the wood floor and the presents below. At the sound, my heart drops into my socks, for we are still days away from this tree’s starring role; and at this rate, it’ll be on stage in its underpants.
I have tried to keep it looking fresh and lovely, I really have. But apparently this is where my green thumb will always fail me. For the tenth year in a row we have selected, sawed and severed our Christmas sacrifice at the tree farm on a cold day for optimum preservation conditions. It is rushed home and immersed in lukewarm water.
And then comes the difficult bit.
With these temperatures, that tree could stand outside for the next three months and still look as fresh as the day it was cut. But the moment it comes into our warmed little hobbit house it will dry and crack in a way not particularly reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell Yuletide print. It doesn’t help the situation that the only place the tree can comfortably go without causing me to move half of my furniture into the attic is a place in the front hallway that sports a main heating vent with a faulty closing mechanism.
For a split second I have the fabulous idea of decorating the tree outside and spending Christmas morning wrapped in Carhartt jackets and Bolshevik headgear. But the answer is easier than that: the furnace simply cannot be allowed to run.
It’s time to make the family suffer for Christmas.
I am the Christmas Heat Miser. Every year I take advantage of my husband’s disinclination to visit the basement at this time of year and I disconnect the furnace to make it next to impossible for lightweights dressed in seasonally inappropriate tee-shirts to casually flip on the thermostat when they feel a bit chilled.
I am not a monster. We have a pellet stove in the kitchen. It can keep up nicely when the temperatures remain reasonable; and although this is the East Coast and “reasonable” isn’t the adjective of choice to describe ambient temperatures, I can generally get away with my miserly schemes for a few months of winter. And with the furnace off, the tree and all peripheral Christmas greenery is allowed to stay fresh and lush – for the temperature tends to drop substantially the further you wander from kitchen and happy hearth.
However, my evil plans for heating bill bliss and Christmas tree splendor hit a road bump when my husband threatened industrial action the first week of December this year. He informed me that he was wise to my “little tricks” and 52 degrees in the living room in the middle of the day was simply not an appropriate temperature for living activities.
He started to don jacket and gloves and told me he was going to the basement, and whatever he had to break in order to do it, he was going to get the furnace working.
Faced with repair bills I can always be made to see reason.
Minutes later with the first rumblings of hot dry air flooding the house I could hear the Christmas greenery exhale collective sigh. By the next day the writing was on the wall and the needles were on the floor.
Twelfth day of Christmas? Ha! We’ll be lucky if it makes it to the first.
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