54: The Bare Necessities

54: The Bare Necessities

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

The Bare Necessities

Let us be of good cheer, remembering that the misfortunes hardest to bear are those which will never happen.

~James Russell Lowell

“You’ve heard the old saying, ‘It’s like pulling hen’s teeth?’ ” I asked my dear friend Anna Marie.

“Uh-huh.”

“Well, finding help to set up the Christmas tree makes pulling hen’s teeth seem like child’s play.”

“Quit whining,” she said. “Just throw a party and invite all your tall, non-acrophobic friends to come over and celebrate ‘the trimming of the tree.’ Either that, or make up your mind, once and for all, that a six-foot tree is every bit as nice as one that reaches clear to your twelve-foot ceiling.”

“No way.” I shook my head. “That yearly twelve-foot tree is a symbol of my independence. When I got divorced, I swore I wouldn’t scale down just because I didn’t have a live-in tree-trimmer. It’s a matter of principle.”

“Principles or not,” said Anna Marie, “I’ll help you with the ornaments, but that’s it.”

“Terrific!” I beamed. “I’ve got the crew in place to bring the tree into the house and set it up, another contingent to man the ladders and get the lights on it, and you’ll nicely round out the baubles and balls brigade.”

The only thing left was tinsel. What is it about tinsel anyway? Even the mention of the word sends grown men and women screaming for asylum.

“Wait!” I implored the hordes of so-called friends abandoning my living room. “Think of it as a ‘growing experience.’ After tonight you can tell everyone you have looked tinseling square in the eye and come away unscathed!”

“I promised my sitter I’d be home by nine.”

“I came over here right after dinner, and I’m sure the dishes are through soaking by now.”

“My laundry is piled three feet higher than the washer.”

“I’ve been neglecting my cat. I promised tonight I’d spend some quality time with him.”

“Face it, Jan,” said Anna Marie, the last rat to leave the ship. “It’s not that we don’t love you, we just don’t do tinsel.”

So now I had a decision to make. Could I live with a non-tinseled tree, or would I have to put it all on by myself? I decided to sleep on it.

Everything looked rosier first thing in the morning — a clear, crisp, December day. I pulled on my robe and opened the drapes to survey the monolith dominating my living quarters. What a glorious tree! But yes, I determined, it needed tinsel.

I fixed a cup of cocoa, turned on the stereo, and opened the first of two-dozen packages of icicles. A twelve-foot tree takes twenty-four packages; it’s in the rulebook.

Several hours later, and about two-thirds finished, I realized that static cling was causing my clothing to remove as much tinsel as I put on with each trip around the tree. I looked like a giant foil orb.

No problem. I had only a few more turns around the fir to complete the job. I set my glasses on the coffee table and shucked off my robe and nightgown. I live in the woods; I was not expecting company.

Singing along with Mitch Miller and his band, I worked my way once again around the back of the tree. The back of the tree, of course, is against the front windows.

Suddenly, my peripheral vision caught a movement in the driveway. Something far bigger than my cat was out there, and here I was, caught buck-naked tinseling to the tune of “Silent Night.”

I dropped to the floor. I hadn’t seen a car pull in, but perhaps someone had walked into the yard from the road. My robe, draped across a dining room chair, was miles away. I couldn’t even get to my glasses without risking further exposure.

Gathering courage, I raised up to peer, like Kilroy, over the edge of the windowsill. At the same time, whatever it was out there also raised up to get a better look.

And there we were, nose to nose, with only the plate glass window separating us; bare on the inside, and bear on the outside.

I don’t know which of us was more startled. But I do know which one of us quickly got to her feet, retrieved her glasses and robe and watched a very large, very confused, black bear lumber off into the woods.

I’ll never know what possessed that bear to rouse itself from hibernation to pay me an early morning visit. The only thing I know for sure is that this is one woman who is never, ever going to be caught tinseling in the nude again by either man or beast!

~Jan Bono

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