Taking on such duties as decorating the family Christmas tree and feeding the family cat are fun for Mike. But when he works his first paid jobs, real responsibility is anything but fun as his father’s angry specter looms over Mike everywhere.
The opening to “Responsibility:”
“Being a man is about taking on responsibility,” Dad said, broaching the subject of responsibility with me for the first time. His delivery was low and throaty, painting a dismal picture of what dutifulness meant.
Thank goodness I was only eight. I had many years left until I’d be a man. Or so I thought.
Then I turned nine and Mom asked me if I would like to put up the family’s Christmas tree. All by myself.
Me? Given responsibility with electricity? Tree icicles? Candy canes? AC powered bubble lights? I couldn’t believe Mom bestowed upon me the duty of decorating the Christmas tree and taking it down after the holidays.
After Dad fulfilled his part of the tree responsibility – dumping a freshly cut Scotch pine on the basement floor and then somehow getting the cumbersome thing to stand inside its cheap little aluminum base – I got to work.
It seemed logical the first step in decorating a tree was to smother all visible shades of green in a blinding sheen of bright silver icicles, which I did. Following that, I covered the tree’s branches with twice their weight in bright ornaments and lights. Hoping to top that off, I attached a heavy star contraption on the uppermost branch that bent it over like a week-old carrot. Disappointed by the limp result, I nevertheless had a lot of fun standing on a ladder so high trying to get the wimpy limb to stand straight.
Responsibility wasn’t bad, but pure merriment! And decorating the tree was art – I loved it. And the best part was being allowed to create my tree masterpiece without being overseen. I felt free and fearless as I tinkered with the overall design right through to Christmas Eve.
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