It is the phrase that strikes fear in the heart of every parent of young children on Christmas Eve. Similarly, it raises the blood pressure of anyone over 60 (and this writer is wayyy over 60) in anticipation. Some Assembly Required.
I have a very beautiful little 30” Baby Balsam Fir with LED Lights Christmas Tree now happily decorating my 7th floor balcony. Should you be in San Francisco, I hope you’ll drive down Post Street and admire it. But in order to appreciate it fully you need its story – a story not unlike the countless stories of parents everywhere faced with toys to be put together at midnight on Christmas Eve.
My daughter Sandy, a parent herself and someone with both great familial love and an interior designer sensibility, cannot handle the idea of her mother not having a Christmas tree. No matter that I’m 2000 miles away on another coast. And we’re in a pandemic forheavenssakes, who am I going to be entertaining? It’s Christmas, and Mom should have a Christmas tree.
It only took one glimpse into the box containing my carefully wrapped 30” Baby Balsam Fir with LED Lights Christmas Tree to convince me this was going to require help. So I closed the box and went for a long walk. On return I invited three 7th floor neighbors in my geezer house over for cocktails and (by the way) help assembling my Christmas tree. (All three are Jewish but compassionate.) Lois and Arthur declined cocktails or even a cup of comforting tea; Joel, knowing I don’t drink and not trusting my faux wine cellar, brought a fancy rum something he’d fixed at his place.
For about 20 minutes – a token amount of time, any parent of a 6-year-old will acknowledge – Lois and Joel and I deal with the initial Assembly and Care instructions. Remove tree stand, tree sections, and Welcome Kit from box(es), and identify the total number of sections of your tree. Joel has left his untouched drink across the room, but is probably beginning to be glad he brought it. Arthur, being already in his 90s (the rest of us aren’t quite there yet) has been exempted from active duty and assigned the position of assistant photographer.
Eventually we work our way to the battery part. (By this time Lois is uttering a few bad words, Joel is drinking and Arthur is saying he knows from nothing about iPhones.) We persevere. Push the locking hooks away from the battery box and gently (Joel and I had different interpretations of the word ‘gently’) lift the battery box away from the base. Please mind the electrical cord attached to the battery box and base.
“Do you have any batteries?” The second phrase any parent fears: Batteries Not Included. Joel went back to his apartment and produced several requisite AAA batteries for the something-or-other. For a while we proceeded nicely. Connect the male plug from the tree to the female sockets from the burlap base, secure the connection by fastening the lock nut. Well, we may be geezers but we’re still humanoids. The connection didn’t work (draw your own conclusions.) Maybe, suggested someone, your D batteries are a little out of date. Well, they did say “Best if used before November 1994,” but who am I to throw things away?
Enter the #1 advantage to living in a Senior Facility, especially The Carlisle, San Francisco. I called the Front Desk. “Lian,” I said in my sweetest helpless-resident voice, “is there any chance we might have, anywhere (by now it’s about 7 PM) two D batteries I could beg, borrow or steal?”
Well hallelujah. Not only did Lian find two D batteries, but the utterly brilliant (and way over-qualified; we’re likely to lose her soon) Activities Director Roquel happened to be still hanging around. We are saved, I realized, Roquel is here. There was unanimous applause when we burst into the room.
Here is the final truism of all Some Assembly Required/ Batteries Not Included reality: EVERYthing will be teeny tiny. The instructions, the assembledges (think male plugs and female sockets) the whole catastrophe. But then we find we know someone in a brand new generation, with delicate fingers that still work and a refusal to be daunted by anything digital or mechanical. (There are few daunting issues with computers that stump Lian or Roquel.)
Good friends to laugh with, young friends to fix things, there is hope for the world. Which is good, since the whole world now requires assembly.
Until then, I submit my tree.
And, as Tiny Tim so presciently put it:
God bless us, every one.