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Sports Columnist

Sports columnist for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

Christmas Tree

On the Tupper Christmas trees, delicate, expensive, easily breakable ornaments high enough to be out of reach of a curious 1-year-old.

Over the years, we’ve accumulated an embarrassing amount of Christmas decorations including an overwhelming collection of gift wrapping supplies.

I believe this year we emptied 18 large plastic storage bins of decorations and devoted most of two days to the task of decorating the house including four trees – three narrow, artificial trees and one large, real, Frazier fir, selected each year the day after Thanksgiving from Four Es in Mount Zion.

When the decorating job is complete, it’s a great feeling of satisfaction and it transforms our home into a kind of twinkling Christmas fairyland that seems to have captivated our wide-eyed 1-year-old granddaughter.

But it’s also an endeavor that each year includes a stepped-up level of physical pain. Now comes the realization that as you grow older, doing Christmas at this level becomes more difficult and more challenging.

Christmas is wonderful. But Christmas is hard.

No one job is a back-breaker. But two days of lifting, carrying, marching up and down ladders, repositioning furniture, coordinating the remote controls that operate all the lights and dashing back and forth to places like Farmer’s Market (fresh greens), Kenny’s Ace Hardware (we upgraded to all LED lights this year) and Hobby Lobby (more ribbon, please) pushes the pace.

We decorated the trees with a different strategy this year. For the first time, we needed to be careful to put delicate, expensive, easily breakable ornaments high enough to be out of reach of a curious 1-year-old.

I thought when the decorating job was done, we’d celebrate with a nice dinner and a bottle of wine. But when we finally collapsed with our sore backs, sore knees and little motivation, we settled for a plate of Thanksgiving leftovers warmed in the microwave. OK, I did manage to locate the corkscrew, but you get the point.

Our home will look lovely for the next few weeks and we leave decorations up until New Year’s Day. Then another long day is required to pack away the ornaments, wreathes, lights, various table-top Santas and heirloom collectibles that will one day be passed on to our children and grandchildren.

That day is bittersweet. It signals the sad end of another holiday season but returns our home to a state of normalcy, which we look forward to as well.

As for the gift wrapping fixation, this is something I can’t easily explain.

I’ve always enjoyed wrapping gifts and I’ve created a gift-wrapping station in our basement that hums along like Santa’s workshop during the month of December.

It includes about 100 rolls of wrapping paper, 400 spools of ribbon and cord and two bins filled with cards and tags. A gift is completed when a carefully chosen tag is attached to each gift. Then it’s placed under one of the four trees.

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We use two long banquet tables upon which the gifts are wrapped and scattered around the operation are tape dispensers, multiple scissors and colored pens. Christmas music plays in the background. If you concluded the gift-wrapping operation has gotten a bit out of control, you’d have company.

They look at me curiously when I buy a gift at Von Maur and offer to wrap it for free. It’s a wonderful customer service.

“No, thanks,” I say politely. “I prefer to wrap it myself.”

I know what they’re thinking. “What nut does that?”

The other night, my 87-year-old mother-in-law commented that she was having a hard time finding the energy to do her normal amount of Christmas decorating. She was scaling back this year, she said.

I was a bit disappointed, but I totally understood.

When you get on the other side of 60, the full-blown job of tackling Christmas seems to be a more and more daunting task. Scaling back might be something I eventually will have to confront.

But not now. Not yet. And, thankfully, not for the foreseeable future.

Christmas is getting more difficult, it’s true. But for every struggle to get the Frazier fir to align straight in the stand, there’s the realization that a sweet little girl will be mesmerized by it.

That alone has become a new motivation to put up with a few seasonal aches and pains.

Mark Tupper is the retired Executive Sports Editor of the Herald & Review. He can be reached at marktupper@barbeckbb.com

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