Jessie Raymond: Decking the halls is no easy task

For Christmas this year, I’m planning to decorate our front porch with a garland and white lights. I don’t even have the garland yet, and already I’m second-guessing my plan.
Doubt started creeping in the moment I pulled the lights out of storage. The five strands I had placed, separately, into a box last January came out bundled together in a giant ball. What’s worse, when I finally got them untangled, I found that only one strand worked.
How does this happen? For a moment, I blamed my detangling strategy: alternately yanking on whatever ends I could find and then slamming the knotted mass against the coffee table while muttering epithets through gritted teeth.
But no, that is the recommended method; I found it in Martha Stewart’s book “A Perfect *$%^ing New England Christmas.”
I spent Sunday night removing and replacing little bulbs in their snug sockets, with nothing to show for it but bloody fingernails and the recollection that Christmas decorating, like so much else I attempt, is never as easy as I think.
I can sort of picture how I want the porch to look: subtle but charming. If it were a song, it would be “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” But going online for inspiration, I found the trend for 2015 running more toward “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” sung off-key.
And that’s not even counting the homes with inflatable characters and blaring music with synchronized flashing lights — a spectacle I might enjoy on other people’s houses, except perhaps those of my immediate neighbors (keep that in mind, Cathy). I’m just not drawn to 5-foot urns full of evergreens flanking the front door, or yards of gold bunting festooning the whole house or enormous bundles of metallic ornaments looming over the entry.
Can’t we just keep it simple?
Not likely. But we’re trying.
We’ve ordered a long length of real balsam garland from a local tree farm. And we’ll have lights (new ones). All we’ll have to do is combine the two, and swag them between the porch posts.
Simple, right?
But let’s be honest. We have no idea how many feet of lights are necessary to properly embellish the amount of garland we’ll have. And while I appreciate help from my husband, Mark — because he has all the tools and ladders, and he knows how to measure — he will turn a casual decorating adventure into a Grand Architectural Undertaking.
We’ll argue about how best to attach the lights to the garland. My way: Just start wrapping until we run out of lights or garland and then fudge whatever’s left at the end. His way: Get out a calculator and a compass, spend two hours crunching numbers and secure the lights to the garland at mathematically precise intervals using a special $102.99 tool purchased for just that purpose.
Whose way wins out may never be determined, as our two goats will see us unrolling 45 feet of balsam garland in the yard and immediately want in on the action. (I am already having flashbacks of this summer, when I tried to pot up four hanging baskets that I had set out on the lawn. While I planted one basket, the goats would help themselves to the contents of another, until my singular goal became to stuff flowers into the potting soil faster than they could eat them. Before long, we were a blur of angry woman and opportunistic goats streaking in ever more rapid circles around four defiled baskets of upended, blossomless plants. I nearly pulled a hamstring.)
If it’s going to be so troublesome, you might ask, then why bother with the front porch at all?
Because, now that Mark has redone it, the porch finally looks good enough to decorate.
And it is going to happen. In a week or so, I expect to be standing in the driveway after dark, admiring the porch and the quaint understated beauty of its sparkling swagged greens. The peaceful scene will give no hint of the damaged lights, perfectionist husband, inconvenient math, nibbling goats or anything else that may have hampered its creation.
Shivering a bit in the frosty air, I’ll raise a glass of eggnog (OK, beer) to the porch, with a toast: “Here’s to a perfect *$%^ing New England Christmas.”
And I’ll mean it.

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