Do you decorate your house for the holidays?
I love decorating my home for the holidays. Well, only two holidays really–Halloween and Christmas. For the other I may pull out a rabbit, or flag or a shamrock, but otherwise I leave well enough alone.
But when it comes to decorating my house at Christmas I’m all in, in a National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, kind of way. It’s a lot of work and takes a lot of time, and I often find myself wondering if all the effort is worth it. I mean, I enjoy it, but does the rest of my family even care? Every year I seem to have the same conversation:
“Boys, can you go in the basement and bring up the Christmas bins?”
“’I’m in the middle of a game, Mom.”
“When will you be done?”
“I don’t know. Ten minutes maybe.”
(Insert eye roll as all of us know 10 minutes will turn into 2 hours easily.)
“It won’t take that long. Grab your brothers and bring the bins up please.”
“REEEEEEE! Fine.” And after a fair amount of mumbling and grumbling my boys reluctantly trample deep into the bowels of the basement to retrieve the 27 containers of Christmas cheer.
I press my luck, “Hey boys, who wants to help Mom decorate the house?”
“Anyone there? Hello? Does anyone want to help me?”
So I turn on the Christmas tunes to volume 10 and start singing along.
“Geez Mom, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet!”
Now, they are absolutely correct. My Christmas decorating usually begins sometime the middle of November. Who has time for Pilgrims and turkeys when my Santas, snowmen and stockings are screaming to be released from the dark boxes where they have been stored the past year. Plus, it’s a big job, and I have lots of stuff, so it takes time.
So, I merrily go about the blissful business of decorating my home. All. Three. Floors. Trees and garland in every room. Lights on every table and shelf. Every possible surface covered with a treasured keepsake. Then, after a good two weeks, I’m done.
With the inside.
“Boys, anyone want to help me put up the outside decorations?”
“Um, I’m busy, Mom.”
“I have homework.”
“I need to practice my trumpet.”
“When I’m done with this level.”
Again, another eye roll.
So, after testing strand after strand after strand of tangled bulbs, I go about hanging lights in trees, on bushes, and around our front door. I put out giant glittered letters spelling out ‘JOY’ and ‘PEACE’, in the middle of our lawn; which repeatedly fall over leaving the word ‘JO PAE’ in its place.
I run 14 extension cords into my Mr. Christmas music box which then synchronizes the lights to music… or, it used to. We’ve had this device for 12 years and this year it would sing no more.
My husband decided to take Mr. Christmas apart to try and revive him. He’s still in pieces on my dining room table. But after a trip to the store, a new, (boring), 6-Outlet Power Stake with Timer, is bought, and the outside of my home is beautifully lit.
I truly enjoy my house decorated, inside and out. It’s how my mom used to decorate when I was kid. And to be honest, I don’t remember helping her decorate either, other than the tree. And yet, it is something I cherished and have carried into my adulthood.
I wasn’t aware of how this generational tradition would affect my own boys. On a surface level, it didn’t seem to matter to them one way or another whether the halls were decked or not. Then this conversation between me and my oldest son who just bought his first house happened:
“Mom, I have a great idea for a Christmas gift for me.”
“Yeah? What is it?”
“Christmas decorations. Anything for my house – a tree, lights, snowmen, anything.”
“Really? I’m surprised.”
“I am too. I didn’t think I’d care whether my place was decked out or not. But when I came over for Thanksgiving and saw all the lights on, with Christmas music playing softly in the background, it made me a bit homesick. I miss it.”
The very next weekend we made a ‘quick’ trip to a big box store, were we bought all the trimmings needed to decorate his new home. I even took over a box of items I no longer use and gave them to him, along with a box of ornaments that he’s collected since he was born. He decorated his new tree while his girlfriend and I busied ourselves with garland and lights. My heart was full of so much joy as we decorated for 6 hours, every room, inside and out.
Before I left, we turned on all the new lights, and some soft Christmas music. We sat in silence as we admired the transformation that took place.
“Thanks, Mom. I love it. It looks and feels more like home now.”
In that moment, all the previous year’s eye rolls, complaints and indifferent attitudes melted away. It mattered. Not just to me, but to them as well. The time and effort taken to create a warm, welcoming and festive home for my family were noticed, appreciated and mattered. Maybe I’ve always known this. But the verbal affirmation stamped this truth on my heart.
I managed a smile, a tear and a whispered “You’re welcome. I love you, Son” all at the same time, and pulled away from his home, that was now merry and bright.