By Tim Hayes

Black Friday.  It sounds so ominous, so forbidding, so unwelcoming.  I don’t get it.  I don’t like it.  I don’t participate in it.

Instead, the day after Thanksgiving at our house has always been the day to put up the Christmas decorations.  They stay up until one of our kids’ birthdays right after New Year’s.  It’s the same every year, like clockwork.

So Friday morning, bright and early, I hauled one of the end tables down to the garage to make space in the family room, and crept back into the depths of Decoration Dungeon, a dark corner of the storage space where 30 years of accumulated ornaments, tinsel, scented candles, snow globes, dolls, wall hangings, strings of lights, and God knows what else, rests for 11 months waiting to be sprung free the fourth Friday of each November.

And, of course, there’s the tree.  My nemesis.  Moby to my Ahab.  Joker to my Batman.  Newman to my Seinfeld.

A six-foot artificial pine, pre-strung with lights that at one point in time actually worked, our tree sure sounded good in the ad.  “Just stand it up, and watch the branches gently fall into place!  No assembly required!  The lights are already there and all set to go!”  Nirvana in a tree stand, right?

I remember setting that tree up the first year we had it, and it performed exactly as advertised.  After nearly 20 years of wrangling with lesser trees each holiday, I felt like we had at last hit the mother lode.  A tree that practically put itself up, and all I had to do was plug in the lights.  It sounded too good to be true.  And, like most things that fit that description, it was.

Year Two brought the Great White Light Mutiny, where roughly half of the lights on the tree decided to retire.  So, down to the local drug store to pick up some fill-in lights, then prodding and peering into the network of lights already hard-wired into the tree to find places to plug in the newbies.  Each year, more sections of lights headed for the Great Beyond, and I can’t tell anymore which ones are the originals and which are triage twinklers added over the years.  This has happened so many times that I believe the lights on the tree weigh more than the tree itself.  Plugging into the socket each year for the first time gives me the shakes, I must tell you.

So, back to this past Friday morning.  The tree, by some miracle of physics, gets shoved into a very large green plastic bag with a zipper on it, so that it can be stored with some small degree of protection in Decoration Dungeon.  Problem is, it must be extracted from said zippered bag in order to get set up.  The tree at this point, I am convinced, begins to think and act of its own will.  Those wonderful branches that automatically drop down?  They begin to automatically rise or fall, depending on where the opening of the bag may be at any given moment.  The tree must like and crave the security of its green plastic home, to slash and thrash with such vigor against my every whim and wish.

I have found that performing this function in the heat of battle is best performed alone, if only to permit me the freedom to verbally express myself fully.  The colorful euphemisms being whispered, and occasionally shouted, during this annual tree-bag-ectomy can be quite spectacular, if I say so myself.

Once free from its plastic prison, the tree lies prone on the family room carpet, surrounded by stray needles lost in the melee.  It smirks at me, egging me on, daring me to try to get it raised up and secured in its tree stand.  About half-way to an upright position, the top part of the tree takes a header, leaping from its perch and causing me to wrestle it back into its stopper while balancing the remaining weight of the tree and a decade of accumulated surplus lights.

Eventually, though, all is well.  The tree is secured, the lights all work, and the rest of the family can finish decorating it.  I take a break, enjoy a cold beverage, and start sweating the next task on the list – putting up the outdoor lights.  Yikes!

You know, next Black Friday I just might go shopping after all.

Copyright 2012 Tim Hayes Consulting