Midnight shopping

Yesterday wasn’t a productive day. I slept in until almost 2:00 pm and didn’t make it in to college. I did do some fun stuff, but midnight came and I hadn’t done anything for my PhD, I had a pile of emails to answer and my flat was in a mess. Because I’d got up so late, I also hadn’t eaten a dinner. Well, I had had a meal at 7:00 pm, but that was my lunchtime, so I was hungry again by midnight.

I decided I’d go to the 24-hour Tesco in Dundrum and get myself a dinner. After I’d eaten it, I could do some cleaning and answer some emails. Maybe I’d even do some study. I really do always have the best of intentions.

I drove to Tesco. I bought chicken tortellini. And a pack of pasta sauce. And some pink lemonade. And a chocolate trifle.

And two Christmas trees.

I know it was only the 13th November. But I needed my happy.

My family always overdo the Christmas decorations. My mother loves colourful things and we always had the jazziest Christmas tree of anyone I knew when we were children. And then my older brother took over the decorating. At first, he just put up the decorations. Then he started buying them. I remember being a teenager, and my brother coming home and rushing into his bedroom. My parents didn’t approve of him spending so much money on decorations, so he used to hide them under his bed and sneak them onto the tree in the hopes they wouldn’t notice. I remember being brought into his bedroom, where he’d show me a giant purple bauble, a set of bells, some golden pinecones, little sleighs, strings of silver beads, decorations that looked like icicles, and like crystals. Cute ones, colourful ones, big ones, small ones. There were so many.

Eventually, my brother had secretly bought so many decorations that we started having two Christmas trees. One was an explosion of colour, wide and tall, with at least one decoration hanging on every single branch of the tree. You could barely see the tree itself under all the decorations and the five sets of fairy lights. I remember one friend visiting and not being able to stop laughing at it. Another friend called it a whore. It certainly was a tree that wasn’t afraid of a bit of razzamatazz. And it probably did have nipple tassels somewhere among all those decorations. The other tree was the classy one. You could still see the branches on that one. It had mainly red, gold and white decorations.  I liked that one too, but nothing as much as I liked the prostituty one. My brother also introduced fake pine garlands all over the house, decorating these with robins, angels and more fairy lights. And that kind of over-the-top decorating is just part of Christmas to me.

My brother still puts up the decorations in my parents’ house. We still have an awful lot of decorations, but there’s only one tree now and it’s all a bit more toned down. My brother is married now, with kids and he’s a lot more religious than he was. He puts effort into the nativity scene in their house, but their decorations are really understated. One year, he even considered not putting up a tree at all.

But for me, the magic in Christmas is the endless possibility of colour, the twinkle of the lights, the jingling of little bells and the outrageous gaiety of the whole thing, in every sense of the word.

So I went up to the cash register with my midnight purchases of tortellini and Christmas trees. One of the trees is six feet high and is in my living room. The other is a three-foot-high pink monstrosity of wonder and is in my bedroom. They’re both artificial, but are relatively good quality.

I got home and immediately assembled the trees. The flat was messy and I didn’t tidy up first. I just made a Christmas-tree-sized hole in the chaos of my living room and put up my tree. I had two sets of fairy lights in the house anyway (what young man doesn’t have two spare sets of fairy lights in the wardrobe?) and I put them up. As well as the trees, I had bought two garlands of tinsel, two little robins, four colourful baubles, six little present-shaped decorations and twelve little stars. I put them all on the tree. It’ll get there. That’s as many decorations as some people put on their trees, but it’s nothing like enough for me.

This weekend I’m going down to Cork for work. In my bedroom in my parents’ house are two bags of the decorations I bought to decorate the kitchen I shared with the Boys last year. There’s also a box of the decorations I had when I lived in my flat in Rathgar and all the decorations I took home from Poland. They’re all going up in my tiny flat in Hall.

I’m taking my happy and I’m taking my Christmas whatever happens, and I’ll do it as early as I like.

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