I let out a sigh as his left boot landed on the roof alongside his right boot, and stifled a comment as he adjusted the camo baseball hat he bought at Wal-Mart in a fit of "blending in." He'd been working all day on decking our halls. There were lights on our picket fence, lights on our shrubs, and garland wrapped around everything else that stands still. He had left the house in fifteen minute intervals to buy "MORE WREATHS!," because apparently you can never have too many wreaths. Our stockings were hung from our staircase with care, for if we hung them from the mantel, our son would destroy them there.
In a way, I wanted the activity to stop. He'd been fully absorbed with it for hours, our tiny house was sagging under the weight of all that holiday cheer, and the calendar hasn't even turned into December. For a woman who ranks "disdain for drugstores that put holiday decorations out months before the associated holiday" as one of her character strengths, I was being dragged into some dangerous territory.
But I contained my heckling impulse because - you know what? - I thought the house looked great. There's nothing I enjoy more than well-placed white Christmas lights, and all the wreaths on the windows masked our prolonged failure to purchase curtains. And if my husband fell off the roof, well, I know exactly where our life insurance policies are and how much he's worth.
It's a delicate enterprise, though, the whole decorating-the-house-for-Christmas thing. You want to be on the right side of the blow-up manger scene on the front lawn. Indeed, my husband hails from the land of Animatronic Christmas Characters. The first Christmas I spent in Puerto Rico, I thought he'd taken me on a haunted sleigh ride when we pulled into what I later confirmed to be his neighborhood and I was greeted by a blow-up waving Santa surrounded by swaying carolers that looked distinctly New England-ish. To date, nothing on our front lawn hums under the power of a generator. I take that as a reassuring sign that we have not yet become the house people drive by to feel superior, even if just for a fleeting five seconds.
Fine lines are tricky things. You can flirt with a fine line and be considered brave or a visionary or fun-loving or Lena Dunham. As soon as you cross that fine line, though, you immediately jump from some shade of adorable to a distinct hue of crazy or bizarre or "no trick-or-treating at that place next Halloween."
And the biggest trouble with fine lines is that they're physically invisible. They are defined only by what the people around you decide is excessive. Which means you could cross a fine line without even knowing it. The news might be broken to you only when you short-circuit your home or a loved one pulls you aside for a heart-to-heart. Or maybe you'll never know, and you'll just be the happy schmuck drowning in a pile of tinsel and home-brewing egg nog.
Fine lines are the trip wires we're constantly navigating. Is that young woman wearing a scrunchie hip in an ironic sort of way, or is she woefully unfashionable in a me-in-middle-school sort of way? Are the Twihards who line up for the first midnight showing of every installment of the movie series endearing innocents, or are they unfulfilled housewives who need to embrace the fact that Robert Pattinson is neither vampire nor available? Should the Jolie-Pitts really try to have enough children to field their own soccer team?
Flirtatious or harassing? Buzzed or drunk? White lie or impeachable offense? Jay-Z or Donald Trump?
The only thing we know for sure is that the Chris Brown fans who launch death threats via Twitter against anyone who tweets a negative word about the singer need to expand their extra-curricular activities.
I will continue to monitor my book purchases so that I don't go from avid reader to suspected stockpiling arsonist. I will try to wear less black, lest I become the world's first preppy-goth mom. I will watch Breaking Bad religiously, but won't allow myself to think it's a primer for adding to our nest egg.
And I will let my husband decorate our house to his heart's delight, but if I ever see prancing plastic reindeer on our lawn, it's lights out.
Image via clarkgriswoldcollection.com