‘Tis The Season

Alien Santa

I chose the above illustration today because it accurately reflects the intersection of two holidays: Christmas and Halloween. See, the guy in the upper part of the illustration is dressed up as an ET/alien/offworld creature pretending to be Santa. Or is it the other way around?

As shopper desperately scrounged around the remains of Toy Story, Incredibles and Halo (who plays that anymore?) costumes, along with bits and pieces of components that could make a costume (witch hats, fake blood kits, the odd Harry Potter tidily bit), I raised myself above the fray. Quite literally.

I drove the industrial lift out of the back room and onto the store floor, rounding a few corners to Phipp’s unadorned Christmas tree. And there I was, stringing lights up a 12-foot flocked tree, covering myself with bits of glitter and fake snow. The mirrored glow-star refused to anchor itself to the top and drunkenly tipped backwards, then sideways. After repeated attempts, I managed to make it merely slouch.

A coworker hands me two sets of what appears to be balled-up holiday twinklers trapped in a clear oversized ball. These, I’m instructed, must be placed at random throughout the twelve-foot tree. Problem is, the lighting strand is only four foot long. The instructions state those lights “must make a statement.” And they do. They’re begging to longer or let out of their crystal cages to aspire to greater lengths.

After the Statement Tree, I move on to the Overpopulated Tree. This six-footer, another flocked nightmare, awaits decoration atop a pile of empty boxes posing as presents. Nearby awaits a package that holds the decorations. There’s no less than eight dozen ornaments that must be arranged “in a festive, delightful manner.” The corporate visual merchandizer included a photo of what the tree must appear like in order to delight our festive customers. If you compare it to a picture of a cake in a cookbook, and, no matter how hard you try, it’ll never turn out the way the baker created it, then you’ll know how easy of a time I have sorting out this tree.

Snow’s falling all over the place, even though Phipp’s is a balmy seventy-two degrees. My sleeves are sprinkled with bits of chemicals that are probably toxic. My coworker mentioned that if some of that flocking gets in the eyes, it’s game over. I use the lift to attach a rainbow of balls, mini Santa pillows, animals dressed as people in jackets, scarves and hats (but no pants or skirts), glitter stars, felt wreaths and obligatory nutcrackers.

Tree three’s theme is Holiday Candy. Mercifully, this tree’s Plain Jane green, but with all the flocking on my arms, some of it drifts downward onto its branches. This one’s got it all: baseball-sized striped mints, candy canes nearly a foot long, hot chocolate mugs, and ribbon candy. But since it has the fewest of ornaments and no lights, it’s quick work.

Parents stream into the department, young kids in tow, searching for last-minute deals and ideas. The kids’ gazes wander with abandon, competing with pleas to just go on and pick out something already. But those toddlers are a curious bunch. Oh, where to look? Is it the giant pile of Halloween costumes littering the floor? Or the Christmas trees glowing and glistening under the florescent lights?

One intrepid little girl, around four years old and dressed as a fairy princess, seemed fascinated with the lift. She wandered over and asked what I was doing. I explained the tree was too tall and I couldn’t put ornaments on it unless I used this thing called a lift.

“Show me how it works,” she asked, as her father drew near. Though smiling, it appeared he was a bit concerned his daughter might try to join me on it. He slipped his arm around her waist as her glance never left the lift.

I press the “up” button and it rises until my head nearly hits the ceiling. My neck crooks and I shrink my body to a crouch as I release the button. The kid laughs out loud. I’m almost squooshed up against the ceiling, but my hand never lets go of the controls. After a moment, I lower it and stretch out my body.

“Do it again!” she squeals, bouncing a bit in her father’s arms. I laugh as I rise and sink with the lift. A child’s curiosity in a piece of industrial equipment lifts my spirits too. After I land for the fourth time, her father thanks me and they leave. She holds her father’s hand and skips a bit as they disappear down the grocery aisles.

After the last bauble graces the limbs of the plastic and metal Christmas tree, it’s time to put the lift back into its charging station. It beeps and flashes orange lights, clearing a path for its travels. I smile.

Sometimes it’s the small things that bring a moment of joy in an otherwise tedious day. A child’s laughter will do just that.

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