The House That Hated Christmas
A Mostly-True Tale
Once there was a young boy who loved decorating for Christmas. This boy eventually grew up into a young(ish) man who married a beautiful woman, got a cat and a dog, and bought a house (not in that order). Every year he would decorate this house on the weekend after Thanksgiving, being the earliest weekend he could justify doing so.
(Almost) every year he and his wife also sold their wares at a craft show. One year, the craft show so happened to take place during the weekend after Thanksgiving! The young(ish) man was disappointed, but could not see how to possibly do the craft show and decorate the house on the same weekend. He resolved to decorate during the course of the week; he would put up the outside decorations during the week, and then he and his wife would decorate the inside of the house that Friday.
The house, though, had other ideas. It decided that this year, it would not be decorated for Christmas. And so it set about enacting its plans...
First, the young(ish) man went into the cellar and retrieved the strands of exterior lights with which he'd decorated the house for the past couple of years. He brought the lights into the house and figured he should probably plug them in to see how many of them were burned out (it would be much easier to change them before he strung them up). So he plugged both strands into a power strip and turned on the strip.
Much to his surprise only about 40% of the light turned on at all! Curious, he fiddled with some of the unlit bulbs to see if, maybe, they just needed to be screwed in tighter. Suddenly there was a sound. If all this were a comic book, small bubble letters spelling out "PAF!" would have appeared above the strings of lights as they all simultaneously burnt out.
Deep in the basement the house silently chuckled. Surely the young(ish) man wouldn't be able to decorate its exterior now! Time to make it so that he would never even want to decorate the interior. The house called its animal minions to it...
Undaunted, the young(ish) man decided that later in the week he'd simply go out and buy more strings of exterior lights, not knowing that the house had a contingency plan even for that.
Friday approached, and so the young(ish) man journeyed into the cellar to retrieve the large, Tupperware-like containers of Christmas decorations and tree ornaments. He hefted the first one off of the stack and brought it towards the stairs. Something smelled funny, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. And as he went up the stairs into the light he realized that it was a very good thing he couldn't put his finger on it, because there was a layer of animal urine on the top of the lid of the container!
The house, in its nastiness, had had its animal minions urinate on the Christmas containers. ONLY the Christmas containers. ALL of the Christmas containers. The young(ish) man brought the containers up into the backyard one by one, and sure enough, there was urine on each of them.
It was GROSS.
However, there was one indisputable fact: all of the containers had been sealed very tightly. The decorations and ornaments inside were perfectly fine; only the containers had been ruined. By being very, very careful, the young(ish) man could potentially remove the contents of the containers without ruining anything.
The young(ish) man was very, very careful.
Deep within the cellar the house grumbled. The young(ish) man was much more persistent than the house had counted on.
Soon the young(ish) man had transferred the contents of all of the containers to the inside of the house with no ill effects other than the young(ish) man being grossed out by animal pee. 'Cause it was GROSS. He kicked the pee containers back down the cellar steps. He and his wife then went off to see about getting a Christmas tree and some exterior lights.
The house, with those pee containers in its cellar, knew where they were going, having overheard them, and tapped into the phone lines, using its immeasurable influence to arrange an unpleasant surprise for the couple.
And, indeed, when they got to the store, the young(ish) couple discovered that the exterior lights were horrendously expensive! It was absolutely ludicrous. Who would ever pay that much for exterior lights? Jeez! The house giggled. You might even say it gig-gigged. "Surprise!" it thought to itself. "Now you won't get any exterior lights!"
When the couple came back home, though, the house got its own nasty surprise. You see, when the couple turned away from the lights in disgust at exorbitant pricing, they discovered behind them the most realistic-looking artificial Christmas tree they'd ever seen—and it was just the right height.
That evening the young(ish) man assembled the tree, and he and his wife decorated the entire interior of the house. And there was nothing the house could do about it.
"At least," thought the house, "they won't be decorating my sweet, sweet outsides. People walking and/or driving by might get a glimpse of the tree through the bay window on the side of the house (for that is where they erected the tree), but there will be no obvious visual cues of Christmassy joy on me!"
The next day the young(ish) man went to Fred Meyer's and bought exterior Christmas lights for dirt cheap.
"Curses!" cursed the house. "Well, let him just try to put those lights up! I've got at least one more trick up my sleeve. Well, technically it's up a tree."
"Who are you talking to?" a neighboring, undecorated house asked.
"Mind your own business!" the house snarked back.
"Oh, okay," said the neighboring house. "Sorry. It's just that the guys who live in me bought WAY too much cream cheese, and I was wondering if your people could take some of it off their hands..."
"No! Shut up! That's dumb."
"Oh, okay. Maybe they'll buy a lotta bagels or something..."
That Saturday, while his wife went off to work, the young(ish) man decided it was finally time to put up the exterior Christmas lights, fully one week after usual. He grabbed the lights, the stepladder, and an extension cord and headed outside. His dog wanted to join him, and the young(ish) man saw no problem letting the dog run around the yards while he was on the front porch putting up lights. It should be fun.
As the dog bounced happily around the front yard, the young(ish) man climbed up the stepladder and began putting up the lights.
"NOW!" cried the house.
Just on the other side of the white picket fence that bordered the front yard were two trees. A squirrel in one of them heard the order from the house and immediately wiggled in such a way as to catch the eye of the young(ish) man's dog. Once its attention was drawn, the squirrel jumped off the tree and darted down the sidewalk. Overexcited, the dog followed in hot pursuit.
"Mwa-ha-ha!" laughed the house. "That squirrel will lead that dog on a chase all over the place! He'll be much to concerned an anxious over the fate of his beloved pooch to even THINK about putting up Christmas lights!"
The dog got scared and stopped less than two houses away. It trotted back to the young(ish) man, whining.
"CURSES!" cursed the house, accidentally loud enough for the young(ish) man to hear.
The young(ish) man cocked his head to the side. All of these strange coincidences added up to not being coincidental at all. He brought the dog back into the house and finished stringing up the outside lights. It was nothing ostentatious, just a simple border along the top and sides of the front porch. When he had finished he opened the cellar doors and went down.
"Hey," he said. "Umm... listen, house, I kinda figured out that you've been making all of these things happen so that I won't decorate for Christmas."
"Well, not ALL of them..." admitted the house.
"Okay, right, you didn't make it so the craft show was on the weekend I usually decorate. But the rest of them."
"But I always decorate you for Christmas." The young(ish) man shrugged. "I guess my question is: why? Why don't you want to be decorated for Christmas?"
"Take a look around me," rumbled the house. "Back when you first moved in, almost all the houses around me decorated for Christmas. Strung up some lights or something. But now... I'm practically the only decorated thing for blocks around. I'm starting to think that they may be on to something."
"I'm on my foundation," said the house next door. "Is that what you meant?"
"No!" hissed the house.
"Oh, okay. Did you give that cream cheese any thought?"
"House," said the young(ish) man, "are you embarrassed by being the only house that's decorated?"
The house hemmed and hawed and cleared its air vents. "Maybe."
"Listen, here's the moral of this story: being different isn't something to be embarrassed about. It's something that makes you cooler."
"Or more awesome?" suggested the house next door.
"Would you butt out of our conversation?" the house growled.
"Oh, okay. Think about that cream cheese, though."
"I am unconvinced," the house said to the young(ish) man. "Convince me."
"Really?" asked the young(ish) man. "I mean, I just said the moral of the story. Usually that happens at the end of the story."
"What, I'm just supposed to take your word on it and change my mind just like that? It's not that easy for me to change. And if you start singing about putting one foot in front of another, so help me Jeebus, I will cause the roof to cave in!"
"All right, all right, relax," said the young(ish) man. He put a hand to his bearded chin. "Hmmm... I hadn't really thought this through. I just thought I'd tell you not to be embarrassed and then, y'know, you wouldn't be embarrassed anymore."
"Wow. Great plan."
"Okay, um, let's try this." And with that the young(ish) man ascended out of the cellar and went back inside the house.
"Here, take a look at all of these great decorations," said the young(ish) man, "and I'm sure you'll agree that being decorated for Christmas is a special thing."
"Okay, shoot," said the house.
"Let's start first of all with this tree."
"Doesn't that look real? You'd never guess it was fake. Plus I'm getting a pine-scented candle for my wife (for her stocking) so that it'll smell real, too!"
"That is pretty nice," the house grudgingly agreed.
"Yeah, look at all them purdy lights!"
"Is... is that a Hello Kitty ornament?" asked the house.
"Oh, yeah, yeah it is," said the young(ish) man. "There are also Charlie Brown ice skating ornaments. And some Powerpuff Girls, Jack (from the Jack in the Box restaurant), a Superfriends lunchbox and thermos, a robot, Buzz & Woody from Toy Story, Catwoman, and Pikachu. Oh, and Sugar Bear from Super Golden Crisp cereal is in there somewhere."
"Wow, that is pretty cool. What else ya got?"
"Here, look on this shelf near the kitchen."
"Here we have the action figures from Rankin/Bass's The Year Without a Santa Claus, including Santa, Mrs. Claus, Jingle & Jangle, and the two Misers. You can even see some of the misers' henchmen lurking in the background!"
"Hey," said the house, "did you hear they re-made The Year Without a Santa Claus as live action? And instead of little henchmen, the Misers have sexy broads?"
"Let's move on," the young(ish) man advised. "Here, take a look at the fireplace mantle."
"Not only is it decked out with Christmas cards," said the young(ish) man, "but with action figures from Rankin/Bass's <I>Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer</I>! And look: I've divided them into their two camps.
"Here on the right side of the Bumble are the misfits—Yukon Cornelius, Rudolph, and Hermie, plus some misfit toys."
"Hey, why was the doll a misfit toy?" the house asked. "What was wrong with her?"
"Let's not get into that right now," the young(ish) man cautioned.
"Here on the left side of the Bumble we have Santa, Sam Snowman, and Clarice, with some forest animals. They represent 'The Establishment' as opposed to 'Freedom and Individuality' as represented by the misfits. Do you want to be a misfit? Or do you want to side with 'The Man?'"
"Umm... misfit?" squeaked the house.
"Good choice. Take a look, now, if you will, please, at this end table."
"Here we have Charlie Brown from his Christmas special, standing next to his little tree after it is re-decorated with Snoopy's excessive decorations."
"What part of the special is that giant snowman from?" the house asked.
"That's an un-related decoration. Focus. Remember how sad and pathetic the little tree was before everyone decorated it?"
"Yeah," the house agreed.
"And how beautiful and loved it was after it was decorated?" continued the young(ish) man.
"I'm suggesting a metaphor."
"I'm sorry," said the house, "I'm just distracted by how big that snowman is compared to Chuck."
The young(ish) man snapped his fingers. "Hey hey!"
"Huh? What were you saying?"
"The tree was ugly before it was decorated and nobody loved it, and then it was beautiful after it was decorated and everybody loved it. You're the tree."
"Oh, I see what you're trying to get at," said the house. "It's like a metaphor."
"Are you saying I was ugly and unloved?"
"Okay, it's not a perfect metaphor."
"I must say, good sir," the house said in a fake British accent for no apparent reason, "that this is all well and good, and I do see, dear boy, the point you are trying to make. I do, however, remain slightly unconvinced. I suppose it might be a case of simply not feeling the Christmas spirit. Pip-pip."
"Pip-pip, eh? We'll just see about getting you some Christmas spirit!"
A few days passed with no advances on either side. Both the house and the young(ish) man remained at an uneasy stalemate. Then that Wednesday someone came over to the house.
"House," said the young(ish) man, "this is our friend Laura."
"I know Laura. You and your wife have her over here like twice a week!"
"Right. Well, Laura has a very specific talent, and tonight she's gonna help you with your little problem." The young(ish) man then produced many sheets of white paper and a pair of scissors. Laura sat down and got to work.
After a few hours she had produced a cacophony of paper snowflakes of all sizes and styles. The young(ish) man hung them up in the windows:
And he hung them up in the window bay above the Christmas tree:
And after he was finished, he asked the house, "There, how do you feel now?"
The house was a little stunned. "How... how does she DO that? I mean, LOOK at those snowflakes! They're incredible. Or, as they'd say in France, 'C'est incroyable!'"
"You're French now?"
"No, but that's how good those snowflakes are. How could I possibly be upset to be decorated with things like that?"
"I know the answer!" the young(ish) man enthusiastically piped in. "Answer: YOU CAN'T."
"Well, you've won me over. Suddenly my entire outlook has changed from bad to good."
"Don't start singing about putting one foot in front of the other now," the young(ish) man admonished. "We agreed not to do that."
"Right," said the house.
Everyone enjoyed the Christmas decorations for the rest of the month. The house even pulled some strings and used its influence so that there would be a white Christmas, a rarity in the Pacific Northwest and something that the young(ish) man's wife had been missing badly since moving out from Ohio as a young girl. Unfortunately the weather went a little overboard and it snowed for about two weeks solid leading up to Christmas.
"See," the young(ish) man said to the house one day when they were alone together. "Isn't this better than just being the same as all those other lame houses?"
"Yeah, yeah, it is," agreed the house. "But speaking of lame houses, I think you might be getting some extra cream cheese soon."
"Really? Well, that's okay. We make cheese balls every year around this time."
"No, but this is a LOT of cream cheese. Trust me, you're unprepared."
"A lot, eh? Well, I know someone who can probably help eat it. What do you think about cream cheese... Ocean Shores Pirate?"