Not Measuring Up to Martha

The Christmas countdown has begun, and my blood is running cold.

I’m always stressed out during the holidays, but last year was worse than usual. I’m blaming it on Martha. I was fine until I saw Martha Stewart’s”Over the Top” Christmas special on holiday decorating.

      I was in my kitchen opening tin cans for dinner when my mother called on the phone.

      “Turn on the TV,” she commanded. “Martha’s on.”

      “Martha who,” I asked acidly.

      “You know which Martha,” my mother said hatefully. (By time the Christmas countdown  is measured in days, we forego all pretenses of good cheer in my family.)

      “I heard she was totally rude in person,” I say.

      “She’s hell with a glue gun, and that’s all you need to concern yourself with. Now turn her on, you might learn something.”

      The only good thing I can say is that Martha was halfway done before I tuned in — I couldn’t have tolerated 30 more minutes of sawing Styrofoam into ornate shapes or hot gluing zillions of cranberries onto foam cones.  But the half-hour I witnessed almost did me in. Until I saw Martha, I was way ahead by my standards. I had the tree up and decorated and a wreath on the door, and hold on to your seats, a perky red ribbon on the wreath. I was feeling pretty smug regarding the holidays– a first for me– and then I saw Martha.

      It was totally “over the top” as Martha says. The only wreath   she even saw fit to mention was the massive one she put on the White House, which was made of hundreds of gold-painted oak leaves (which symbolizes something but was lost on me) and 50 gold acorns, which I assume stand for  the states.

      By the time she got to crystallizing fruit – you simply  dip it in egg white, then in some special sugar you have to get at who knows where (but buying it in Chinatown sounds easier than finding a parking place at Hamilton Place), I was exhausted. Martha was piling mounds and mounds of this gorgeous fruit on tiers, which were actually plates and cake stands and wine glasses stacked on top of each other, and all I could think about was who in my family would be the first to knock the whole thing over. Demolishing the fruit structure would be inevitable in my household within the first 15 minutes the fruit tiers were created, but according to Martha, the actual crystallized fruit would not last much longer before it rotted. Now fruit rots at a higher rate at my house than it does in the rest of the country because people take bites of it, then skillfully replace it in the fruit bowl, bite-side down. This also brings fruit flies, which I gather Martha is not familiar with.

      The thing that gets me is the amount of work Martha is willing to do for such perishable items.  I spend enough chunks of time on dinners that are history in minutes, and I do not want to invest any more time on short-term projects. (That’s how I view dinner in order to carry on.)

      Martha carved out topiary shapes in Styrofoam, cut boxwood sprigs all the same length, then stuck them in the Styrofoam. Then she hot-glued stems and planters and who knows what together and added, “This should last about 5 days if you keep it watered.” It’s all I can do to keep the dog watered, I’m not about to add “perishable topiary” to my list.

      Give me a project that will outlast Methuselah, and look fresh-out-of-Kirkland’s forever, and I might invest a block of time. For that, I might even invest in a glue gun.

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