Please welcome to Book Club Girl's Holiday Open House Susan Juby! Susan is the author of the acclaimed YA novel, Alice, I Think, and her first adult novel, Home to Woefield, is forthcoming in March 2011. Susan's sense of humor comes through in her post, in which she shares her tradition of Christmas decorating by herself--and her husband's tradition of steelhead fishing. Enjoy!
At risk of sounding like an anti-social writer, I usually pick out our tree, decorate it, our house and do the Christmas baking alone.
While I do all this, my husband, James, fishes for steelhead. If you haven’t heard of them, steelhead are a form of oceangoing trout. Catching one is like winning the lottery, finding the Holy Grail and being the first stop for the dim sum cart, all rolled into one. “Steelheaders” will stand in icy rivers, surrounded by snow and hibernating bears for entire days in hopes of catching one. Steelheading is clearly the domain of the obsessive and I’ve always appreciated James leaving me out of it.
I have my own little rituals for the season. For instance, I like to listen to audio versions of incredibly violent crime novels while I put up our symbols of Christmas cheer. It’s not decorating if there’s no body! I also approach the holidays with a certain intensity. That’s how I ended up tearing a rotator cuff in my shoulder when I attempted to cook every recipe in Bon Appétit’s holiday issue a couple of years ago.
Then, out of the blue last year, James decided things needed to change. He got it in his head that he was missing out.
“It’s weird for you to do everything by yourself,” he said. “We should decorate together. As a family.”
“Are you sure?” I asked, thinking back to the time we tried to do a minor home repair project and came close to getting a divorce because I accidentally dropped the hammer on his back.
“Of course! Crack out that Boney M Christmas album and let’s do it!”
“Well,” I said doubtfully. “First we have to get a tree.”
“Not a problem,” he said.
Moments later we were in the truck and heading for the local nursery, which has a large selection of Christmas trees.
We spent an hour and a half assessing the different varieties.
“This one’s nice,” he said, pointing to the Noble Fir.
I shook my head and pointed out the bald spot that made it look as though a tiny logger had been practicing clear cutting on it.
“How about this Grand Fir?” he asked. “It’s very grand.”
“We’d need a semi-trailer to get it home.” The tree was at least twelve feet tall. Our decorations would only cover the bottom third. I usually chose trees that would fit comfortably in my subcompact car.
“What about the Blue Spruce? Now that’s what I call a tree!”
I paused. Sniffed a branch. Turned over the price tag and saw that it would wipe out half of the Christmas budget.
Finally we decided on a medium sized Douglas Fir. We waited in line to pay, waited in line for the clerk to cut the trunk down to size and then struggled to get the tree into the truck. Once home, we dragged it, like some enormous, passed out porcupine, out of the truck and up two flights of stairs and into the living room.
We battled the tree over to the designated area and narrowly avoided breaking the living room window when the tree toppled and fell on James, who was trying to maneuver the trunk into the stand.
Panting and covered in sap and needles, we stood back to survey our purchase.
“You know,” he said after a long moment. “I thought this would be more fun.”
My heart sank. I was just getting warmed up.
“Do you want to go fishing?”
“Will you be mad?”
“Of course not,” I said. I didn’t mention that the latest Jack Reacher adventure was burning a hole in my iPod or that, if James left, he wouldn’t be there to catch me going to the hardware store five times in a single afternoon as I changed my mind about what color lights to use. He wouldn’t see me arrange the candles on the mantle ten times or compulsively organizing the ornaments along thematic lines (top quarter: animals, bottom of tree: things that are red!)
Instead, he would come home, tired and cold after a long day on the river, and enter a warm, Christmas-smelling house that looked like a small Vegas casino. He would compliment me on my decorating and cooking abilities, not to mention my apparent calm. I would admire his outdoorsy hardiness and all would be well.
Shared enjoyment of private obsession: it’s what's for Christmas this year!
Visit Susan's website for more details, follow her on Twitter, and for those with e-readers, click here to download an e-galley of Home to Woefield from NetGalley.