The holiday season is a stressful time by default. I already mentioned some of my fears about spending Christmas with the boyfriend and about meeting his parents and potentially being dismissed for my dubious gift of Twiglets. Also, the fears about careers and jobs and money didn't go away at this time, as far as I tried to put them to the back of my mind.
I wasn't the only one with seasonal jitters. I could see that my boyfriend wanted to make sure that the all-American Christmas that he had envisioned for me went off without a hitch. He tried his hardest to make sure that everything was perfect, from the brand of mincemeat (so I could bring a taste of British Christmas tradition: drinking mulled wine and eating Jus'Roll Pastry mince pies with a Dr Who special on the telly) to the order of seasonal DVDs chosen to background the family festivities in the run up to Christmas day.
The day after I arrived we took a family trip to the Christmas tree farm to pick our sprucy ornament, all 12 feet of it. I appreciate that choosing the perfect Christmas tree is imperative to set the mood for the year's celebrations. However, my boyfriend takes tree shopping to another level. He traipses around the rows of trees and gives a full 360 degree analysis of the specimens on offer, making assessments on height, vertical infallibility (no leaning allowed), corpulence and needle retention. In no other situation is the sight of grown men wandering around shaking trees by the trunk considered acceptable and normal behaviour.
"It's just not the same anymore," He lamented. "We looked up and down the state for the right farm for you to visit. All the good trees are usually tagged before they get to the height they should be. These trees will be excellent in a few years' time, but only if they are given a chance to grow."
As it happened, we did get a beautiful pre-cut tree from upstate, but he remained sorely disappointed that I wasn't going to get the experience of chopping one down for myself. I think for the sake of my fingers that this was a good thing. At least I still have ten of them.
But you heard it kids: give trees a chance to grow. Just $2 a month will help these poor undernourished trees achieve...
Anyway, another cue for stress came when the men performed the ritual of bringing the Christmas decorations down from the attic for a dust-off, with the ceremonial untangling and pre-tree trial of the lights. As per Santa's Law, only one set of lights was working. We travelled to all the supermarkets in the land but there were but no white lights left. The three wise men definitely didn't have this problem.
"Do you have any white lights?" Boyfriend enquired at each establishment.
"Alas, not anymore, dear sire" they didn't reply.
"Will you get anymore?" Boyfriend asked. He was greeted with perverse looks and shakes of heads, and derisory comments that next year he should try Christmas shopping more than a week in advance. This set him into an electric rage, while I had certain pumpkin-themed flashbacks and convinced him to calm down.
The weather didn't help. Snow storms and weather warnings and mayor-proclaimed weather emergencies meant that plans had to be canceled or rearranged. Buying gifts for all, with the snow and the money concerns, was another stress. And I had my own secret worries that the gifts I was giving to the boyfriend's family weren't going to be good enough. Girl wants to make a good impression on her first yankee Christmas (and don't worry, I knew that a hold-baggage battered box of Twiglets wasn't going to cut it).
Until the phone rang. And Boyfriend picked it up. And left the room.
He came back and look flustered.
The phone rang again. He left the room again.
He came back and looked even redder.
"I'm having an argument with a jeweler's," he eventually explained.
My blood ran cold and my eyes widened.
"We're getting an heirloom locket for my sister, and it's been no end of trouble. We'll need to go out to the mall across the state on Saturday I'm afraid. I need a female eye to make sure it's going to be acceptable." I agreed, shoulders relaxing.
Anything to be part of a perfect family Christmas. This could only win me family favour, I reasoned. With the weather, lights, and tree providing enough havoc over the season I was only too glad to help. And as I said, he was desperate for Christmas to go without a hitch.