Growing up, we didn’t shop for great deals the day after Thanksgiving. We never risked life and limb in a mad dash at WalMart. No, we had our own death-defying experience right in the comfort of our own home. It began right here, while balancing cardboard boxes, swollen with Christmas finery, down this narrow throat of stair:
This was what I looked forward to all year long: Christmas decorating day. Move over Clark Griswold. I was a tinsel ninja. My soundtrack? The Osmonds Christmas. On eight-track.
Mom could barely finish scraping off the Thanksgiving dinner dishes, before I was begging to decorate. I was on a Mission — a tinsel-hanging, elf-dangling, greenery-in-the-light-fixtures, swirly-twirly, multi-colored-lights-tacked-to -the-door-frame Mission.
Within 24 hours, our home would be transformed into a faux winter-wonderland. We’d deck the halls with boughs of kitschy-ness. We stacked our home with ceramic Jesuses, cottony snow pulled from plastic bags, knitted Christmas potholders and yards upon yards of garland.
“Hark!” The ceramic angels sing, “Glory to the crocheted King!”
Our outlets performed electrical miracles — in which up to ten strings of lights could be inserted into a single plug-in. (Oh, Come, All Ye Fire Marshals?)
We had no fewer than 30 Santas in the house: a snoring Santa, a lifesize Santa stuffed with crumpled newspapers, a knee-high Santa with matching Mrs. Santa near the fireplace, painted Santas, sequined Santas, Santas with heads super-glued back in place, and more.
One year, I convinced my parents that we needed a second tree in the living room — not an evergreen tree, but a rugged old paint-splattered ladder from the shed, on which we could hang more ornaments, tinsel and glittery stars. Mom was, at first, skeptical, but she let me drag that old ladder in. It became a fixture year after year.
But my favorite moment came when I arranged the nativity on the built-in bookshelf in the foyer. I would climb over the banister, and crouch down on the top of that shelf — in another death-defying move — carefully arranging the characters. Jesus, of course, was the central figure. I fixed the others in such a way that they would gaze upon the ceramic child, while not blocking the view of actual humans, here below.
I knew, of course, that Jesus was more important than Santa, and thus put the jolly elf one shelf lower than the Bethlehem scene. And they all got along quite peaceably in our home — Santa and the Three Kings and Rudolph and Jesus — all right there amongst the fake greens and the comforting glow of multi-colored lights.
Funny, now that I think about it. … Funny, how all that kitschy, overwrought world of tinsel made me feel warm on the inside. It felt a bit magical, quite honestly, like I somehow had a part in making Christmas come alive, while hanging boughs of holly and nestling that tiny Jesus down in his wee trough.
And I suppose it’s how Jesus came to nestle down in my wee heart, too, right there in the most ordinary place, with Donny and Marie crooning and Mom frying bacon and Dad carrying another box full of greenery down the creaky staircase. I felt a bit like Mary, now that I think about it, treasuring up all these things — even the cheesy, tinsely things — and pondering them deep in my heart.
Tell me about a favorite decoration, or ornament, or a favorite Christmas CD. Are you a Clark Griswold, or more of a minimalist? What’s your cheesiest, must-have decoration?