Decorating. Every year I watch the TV specials about the extreme Christmas decorations some people put up, with enough lights to send your electric bill into the quadruple digits or with so many animatronic figures that the front yard isn’t even visible anymore. And I pore through magazines showing pictures of homes decorated according to a theme or a color scheme. Every light, Christmas ball, and mantle decoration had to fit in, or it was gone. I was always awestruck by both of these practices, probably because our decorations were nowhere near extreme or perfect. Nope, the Christmas decorations we had were an accumulated mish-mash of whatever my parents had gathered in their travels while Dad was in the Air Force, or whatever struck their fancy.
Our decorations always came out of the basement and the attic on Thanksgiving weekend. As a young child in our house on Market Street, I recall boxes of decorations piled higher than I stood, and I used to love crawling around in between the stacks, hiding from my parents and my brothers. I don’t recall helping all that much with the tree; Dad always wanted the lights just so, and I think Mom was afraid Gary and I would break the ornaments (no shatterproof Christmas balls in those days!). We never had any special tree decorations, just the run-of-the-mill multi-colored glass balls and tinsel garland. One year Mom did buy some small blown glass ornaments—animals for me and trains for Gary. I don’t know that they lasted all that long, for obvious reasons.
One of my favorite ornaments was a huge snow-covered church that lit up and played “Silent Night.” It wasn’t ceramic like most music boxes today, but was some kind of waxy material. I remember it being quite heavy, and I was never allowed to move it. The snow on the roof was made of what looked like glitter-coated quilt batting. The church was old even when I was young, and the snow even then was already dirty-looking, but I loved it to death. I opted not to take it when Mom was cleaning out the house after Dad died, and I regret that now. I’m sure it’s gone to the land of memories.
Another decoration that I loved, and one that sits on my mantle now, was a carved wooden dog. It’s brown with black spots, and it’s sitting down with its nose pointed skyward. I never understood why Mom had that with the Christmas decorations because there’s really nothing Christmassy about it. Still, one of the highlights of getting the decorations out was the anticipation of finding that wooden dog so I could play with it for a month out of the year.