Monday, December 15, 2008

Wife Rule #91: Learn to Bend

When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed
To turn, turn will be our delight
'Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.


My wife loves this old Shaker song, called "Simple Gifts." The chorus, as cited above, is a gentle reminder that humility, meekness, and willingness "to bow and to bend" are virtues that lead to a happier, simpler life, rather than all the strife and complication that comes of selfishly asserting our own will all the time.

This philosophy has been a much needed reminder in our marriage, especially when we have dug ourselves deep into the trenches of the Holiday Holy War. You all know what I'm talking about, of course: Christmas lights.

There are countless ways to slice and dice opinions in the Christmas Lights Question, but there is only one correct opinion: mine.

And this coming from a man whose idea of interior decorating is to toss my dirty socks on the lampshade. Come to think of it, if I had my way, lampshades would be classified as "unnecessary expenses" and my sock would be directly smoldering on the naked bulb. Cheaper and more aromatic than incense.

But taste in Christmas lights has absolutely nothing to do with interior decorating--certain principles exist in the Universe and simply must be obeyed. See, everyone is entitled to their opinion; unfortunately, most opinions are wrong. If you want to decorate your house with all green lights so that it looks like Frankenstein's Castle, go ahead. If you want to decorate in those blue LED lights, so that your roof looks like a UFO landing pad, be my guest. And if you are one of those people who simply replaces your porch light with an evil-looking red light bulb, then you won't get any competition from me in the Satan's Lair Look-Alike Contest.

But if you want to create a truly aesthetic holiday atmosphere--you know, something really classy-looking--then there's only one obvious answer: multicolored blinking lights. Of course, I don't need to tell you this; flashing multi-colored lights stand on their own merits. And besides, that's what I grew up with. I'm grateful I was brought up in truth and righteousness on this very important issue.

But my wife, with her countless virtues, was sadly led astray on this one little point from an early age. She incorrectly--and tragically--thinks that straight white, non-blinking, boring lights are the way to go. So sad, an innocent, pure child being brainwashed like that. She and other members of her family have even been known to describe the correct style of lights (my style) as "tacky." Gasp!

I know, I know. It's shocking. And I'm not going to try to minimize the real strain this put on our marriage during our Magical First Christmas Together. Amazingly, in all of our premarital discussions about vital topics--such as religion, how many kids we want, where we want to live, what our wedding colors should be (Me: "What in the heck are wedding colors? How about black?"), etc.--the topic of Christmas Lights was somehow skipped over. Note to all you out there who are thinking of getting married: do not neglect to discuss Christmas Lights, and if needed, sign a prenup!

So it was more than a little disturbing to discover as we discussed decorating our Magical First Christmas Tree Together that my wife assumed we would light the whole thing up with plain white lights! And to make matters worse, she expected me to wind the lights around each and every branch! I mean, who has time for that? And spending that kind of time on white lights???

Well, I had a little news for the new Wifey-poo: while boring white lights may have once been sufficient for You and Yours, our Magical First Christmas Tree Together (which includes the big Me and Mine) would definitely be incorporating colored lights. And flashing lights.

Positions were taken, lines were drawn. It looked like we might be heading straight into our Magical First Christmas Argument Together. Luckily, my wife and I had been married almost eight whole months by then, so we were pretty much masters of compromise. So we did the tree half white, half colored, with one large strand of twinkling lights that ran along the trunk from top to bottom. I kid you not.

Thankfully, my wife decided not to divorce me.

In truth, the tree really didn't look that bad. It was, according to my wife, "fine" (though I have learned since that the "f" word doesn't have quite the positive connotation I once thought it did, but that's a topic for another day). But notwithstanding tree-light mediocrity, our Magical First Christmas Together was... magical. And most importantly, it was together.

Since the time of that first tree, we have gradually amended the Great Christmas Light Compromise of 1998. Ten years later, we have evolved to a point where our tree is decked out completely in white, beautiful (not boring), non-blinking lights. The multicolored lights have all migrated outside, and the twinkling strand has found a home in our pine bough garland that hangs on our stair banister.

Thus we have arrived, still together, at a better place; a place of happy compromise; a place of bending.

And I love it. It's funny how learning to love a woman of such grace and beauty has eventually begun to change my very nature--to the point where I not only put up with deviations from the traditions of my youth, but I genuinely love the new traditions we have created together. More and more, I find myself merging with her in terms of my tastes and preferences in even the little things, like Christmas lights. It's as if our minds and hearts are ever becoming more and more entwined, on the road to becoming truly one.

Imagine, one shared opinion instead of two battling ones. It's so simple, it's almost like a gift.

1 comment:

John said...

Well we had the exact same issue. Our compromise ended up with all our lights of the white non-blinking variety. I've been told that I can get a little fake tree to put in the basement with my colored lights if I want. Sigh. Now I have to get my fix by driving around looking at everyone else's pretty colored lights.