THE MAN OF THE HOUSE: CHRIS ERSKINE

A Christmas wish: Get back to basics

"Are you taking it dancing?" I ask.

"Dad, let's go to that other lot," the little girl suggests.

Da Vinci never cared this much about shape and form. Rembrandt never cared this much for color. Beethoven spent less time on a symphony than we do picking out a simple 6-foot fire hazard.

Our budget for the perfect tree is $60, but Posh spots one for $89 that she kind of adores.

"Can we eat it for Christmas dinner?" I ask.

"No."

"Then we're not spending $89 on a tree," I say.

When we get the $89 tree home, it turns out to be mounted poorly and doesn't sit straight up in the stand (an extra 7 bucks). At first, we bend it back straight, but once we get the 120 strings of lights and 48,000 ornaments on it, it begins to teeter again. A friend dubbed it the Leaning Tower of Christmas.

None of us has the energy or the time to de-decorate the tree, re-cut the trunk, buy another stand, then decorate the tree again (estimated time: 12 to 14 hours).

So we've started a pool on when exactly it will fall over.

The smart money? Christmas Eve.

::

Dear Santa,

Won't keep you long. You can cancel that Porsche I ordered earlier? Personal bankruptcy looms like one of Dickens' ghosts. I don't fear unemployment so much as I fear daytime television. That would very well do me in.

And I guess my request for peace on Earth will have to wait another year too -- there's no telling what those cowards with automatic rifles will try next.

So here, with a smaller and more-contented holiday in mind, is my revised Christmas list:

* A giant aspirin, big as a hockey puck.

* Two hours Christmas Day to watch the Lakers crush the Celtics.

* One honest moment.

And if you can't manage the other two, I'll settle for the one honest moment, where I have the courage to tell the ones I love how truly crazy I am for them. I am head- over-heels nuts for my wife, my mom, my kids and even my sisters (seriously).

Why I can't be more upfront about this is anyone's guess. It might be because I'm a dad. It might be because I'm originally from the Midwest. It might just be because I'm a notorious goof-up.

But if you can give me one honest moment over the holidays -- maybe two -- I'll tell them all how I feel about them, not to mention a few old friends whom I'm pretty loopy for as well.

Sappy? As a Fraser fir. Sensible? As a Sears sweater.

Welcome to California, Santa. Remember, clothing optional.

For more "Man of the House" columns, go to latimes.com/erskine.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

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