Christmas used to be simpler. And harder.
One thing’s for sure, Christmas definitely used to be lighter.
When the boys were younger, there was a lot more to the Christmas prep. We had to be careful what we said. We had to make sure we visited Santa Claus somewhere at least once before Christmas Eve, ideally nowhere near a mall.
We had to “mail” letters to the North Pole, which really meant we had to make sure we read the letters without anyone finding out, then I was in charge of making the letters disappear. And make no mistake, that was probably the most life-and-death job I’ve ever had as a parent. The world would have come down around our heads if one of the boys had ever seen me shredding their Santa letters and hand-decorated envelopes. Thank the good Lord they never insisted on walking them down to the mailbox themselves!
We had to put out carrots and milk and cookies for Santa, and I had to eat the cookies and drink the milk. That job was tolerable. But I also had to chew up the carrots and spit them onto the lawn, and collect dirt and freezing cold hose water to make mud in order to manufacture reindeer “hoofprints” on our front walkway at midnight. That job was cold and messy and tasted like carrots, which are not nearly as good as cookies.
Basically, we had to lie a lot and stay up late. But at least the gifts were smaller.
I mean, sure, I spent my fair share of Christmas Eves assembling new bikes and Fisher-Price scoot-around cars, or whatever, but they were all manageable one-man jobs. The boys are older now, and the big gifts have grown with them.
This year was almost too much for me to handle. Son Number Two and Three got an eight-foot-tall lacrosse bounce-back from us this year. The UPS guy could barely get the box up our driveway. He and I managed to get it stored in the garage out of sight, but last night I had to put it together. It’s basically a trampoline the size of a large coffee table, sitting vertically up on a tube steel frame. It has various places where it folds up for storage, but God help you if you fold it all out, stretching all the springs tight, before you thoroughly read the safety precautions section of the manual.
There are two places that require safety bolts to be placed through the hinges before you move on to assembling the rest of the very heavy framework. If you don’t put the safety bolts in, it’s possible for the whole thing to fold in half very rapidly as the springs collapse, beating the holy hell out of your right foot that happened to be standing on one side of the frame. That situation is also very sudden and very loud, which causes your heart to stop for three to four full seconds, which can’t be good for you.
The problem was the giant upright trampoline turned out to be the light, easy gift to assemble. Son Number One wanted a weight bench. I bought it at a local sporting good store, and between me and the five-foot-two-inch female store manager, we managed to get it into the back of our SUV. Just imagine a full-size wight bench with all the weights and everything, tucked into a reinforced cardboard box the size of a standard filing cabinet.
I had to keep it in the box in order to hide it in the garage. Ironically, Son Number One would have been an excellent choice to help me move it there from the back of the car. His brothers couldn’t be trusted to keep the secret safe, so I handled it myself. Luckily, that was about a month before Christmas, so I had time to recover from the hernia surgery before I had to assemble it last night.
It was all actually going pretty well, taking locking plate #24 and using two #37 bolts plus two #78 washers and #45 nuts to secure crossbar #17 to main beam #12. That was fine. It was the un-numbered items that gave me a little trouble. Specifically, the twenty-five-pound plastic-coated weight that slipped out of my tired fingers around midnight and bounced across my already spring-loaded right foot.
That kind of thing never happened with the Fisher-Price stuff. Like I said, Christmas used to be lighter.
On the upside, the boys didn’t wake us up at 4:30 this morning like they used to.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to continue to ice my foot.
I hope you all have a very merry Christmas!
Until next year,
Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen
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