Chapter 29: The Night Before

I’ve had a real soft spot for Winterfest ever since that fateful night, all those years ago, when Nalani and I were visited by Father Winter (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) during one of our first few dates. I’m actually pretty sure that was the night Byrd was conceived, but please don’t go telling her that. While she’s still young enough to believe in the magic of Winterfest, she’s also probably old enough to have her experience of the holiday ruined by associating it with the acts that went into bringing her into the world. I’d prefer if the only fat old man she holds in her mind when thinking of Winterfest was the usual jolly, bearded guy, and not her naked dad.

One more 1/128th turn and it’ll be fine.

Byrd and I were hanging out early on the eve of the big day, I sipping my coffee while she tore into a bowl of cereal, when we decided we’d get a jump on decorating the tree. Mom has worked late the night before, as she often does, and I didn’t figure she’d mind if we got the decorating started without her and just let her sleep. And Boone… well, Boone is a toddler, so it seemed best that I get all the electrical and pointy stuff sorted out before he got involved.

I seem to forget every year just how long it takes to go from having a bare tree in the living room to the desired end result of a fully-decorated tree. There all the light-stringing and garland-placing, and several rounds of spinning the tree around to find just the right position to hide the inevitable ugly spots, not to mention the torturous ordeal that is the attempt to stand a tree up straight in one of those stupid tree stands. Every year I try to get everything absolutely perfect for far too long before realizing nobody really cares as much as I do about it, and it was fine hours ago.

Byrd and I had probably already been laboring for quite some time before Nalani wandered in, finally awake, with Boone following right behind. Soon there were four pairs of hands working on getting everything in place, and the whole process started going much faster. By mid-day, we were ready to pronounce our tree sufficiently trimmed.

Fun for the whole family!

Most of the rest of my day was spent climbing around on top of the house hanging lights and other decorations, while trying to convince myself the entire time that I wasn’t about to plunge from the roof to my untimely death. There’s one of those things we guys don’t tell you. We’ll get out the ladders and hammers and put on a really brave, manly face while we hang all those outside trappings, but what we don’t tell you is that the whole time we’re up there with our feet slipping around on the shingles, we’re terrified. Sure, we’ll mumble at you in our gravely masculine voices while we do all of it, but inside we’re screaming like the terrified little wussies we really are when we don’t think anyone’s watching. But, like John Wayne once said, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” Don’t think I wouldn’t hire him in a second to string up my lights for me if he wasn’t dead, though.

We spent the evening mostly bundled up in the living room, enjoying hot cocoa and Nalani’s delicious homemade cookies, while a rainstorm, which is as close as we’re ever going to get here to the traditional snowy Winterfest, pattered outside. Well, it started as a patter, anyway. It steadily grew louder as the evening progressed, until the rainstorm reached its awe-inspiring crescendo when a bolt of lightning took out our mailbox and the unfortunate trio of gnomes that had been gathered around it since last month.


No big loss, really. Those gnomes were creepy as hell.

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