Season’s greetings! Happy December! Welcome to Christmas party madness!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Actually, I’m feeling guilt-ridden that Thanksgiving got slighted again this year in the Simard household, since we started taking down fall decorations in mid-November to make way for our annual post-Thanksgiving Christmas decorating binge.
In typical data-driven fashion, I asked Rene to count how many trips he made up and down the stairs to take the fall decorations back to their resting place and bring the Christmas decorations upstairs. I was ashamed, yet proud, when he announced he made 45 trips and estimates he burned somewhere around 300 calories. Rene calls my creative decorating genes “adorable,” but every year I find myself endlessly apologizing to him during holiday transition time. He has already asked who is going to inherit all these decorations someday, and my mind consistently draws a blank.
A Cotesfield Christmas
Just when and how did my holiday decorating streak emerge? Surprisingly, my ornamental fascinations trace back to my father. Not that there was much Christmas light-decorating competition in my Nebraska hometown of Cotesfield (population 80 when I was a kid), but in the late 1960s, people actually drove to Cotesfield to pass by Milt Moravec’s house.
While quaint, ours was nothing like Clark Griswold’s house. To prevent outdoor decorations from blowing over in the frigid Nebraska winter winds, Dad secured three-foot high plastic Santas and snowmen to cement blocks by wrapping silver duct tape around the Santas’ and the snowmen’s feet and through the cement blocks. Massive amounts of extension cords that snaked across the front lawn from outlets in the garage powered both the static displays and the lights in our evergreen trees. Then there was the color wheel, a plastic wheel divided into quarters, with a different color for each quarter, that dad strategically placed behind our house. Behind the color wheel was an industrial-strength lightbulb. When the light came on and the wheel started turning, it became a light show that reflected off our roof. I could never figure out the color wheel’s tie to Christmas, however. Since there was no danger of a snow melt in Nebraska in December, the snow-drenched displays looked far more elegant than they sound. Dad usually unhooked the decorations from the extension cords after Christmas and put the decorations away in the garage, but the rest of the extension cords, which were frozen under at least a foot of snow that didn’t melt until early March, didn’t get picked up until the spring thaw.
Christmas in a small town required extraordinary amounts of planning, since we only got one shot at Christmas shopping for siblings and whosever name we drew for grade school gift giveaway on our one Christmas shopping trip to Grand Island, 40 miles away. Our wish lists for Santa got created by flipping through the dog-eared Sears catalog, also known as the “Wishbook,” that arrived in the mail every November. For many years, I assumed anything that anyone needed could be found in a Sears catalog. All the “stupid stuff” was in the front of the Sears Christmas catalog, but 200 pages of toys and other “cool kid” items were in the back.
Farewell to a Retail Icon
Call me a pathetic, nostalgic wreck, but I still love flipping through mail-order magazines that arrive in the mail, especially during this time of year. There’s something invigorating about sitting and flipping through magazines on a Sunday afternoon, wine glass in hand. Surfing Amazon on a computer just doesn’t bring me the same pleasure. I will forever be a catalog shopper, thanks to my Sears roots.
Unfortunately, Sears appears to finally be on its last leg, and this fall the announcement was made that our closest Sears store, in Southglenn, will be closing in a few months. So, one Saturday afternoon in October, Rene and I paid our final respects. We reminisced about the days when buying home appliances or tools or car batteries or car tires anywhere other than Sears was sacrilege. Since there were hardly any store employees left to staff the cash registers, I stood in the checkout line for 20 minutes that afternoon, feeling like I was attending a funeral.
But life will go on, and Sears, which had its start in 1886 when Richard W. Sears founded a company to sell watches by mail order, will soon take up residence in our expanding bank of memories. Farewell, old friend.
What About Christmas?
What is Christmas to you? Music? Lights? Gift exchanges? Nostalgia? Anticipation? To me, Christmas is about reflection. Of times spent with loved ones who have long since passed, of flubbing up lines in church and school Christmas plays, of spiking egg nog with more whiskey and ice cream than my late mother’s recipe recommends, of stringing popcorn and cranberries for the Christmas tree, and of watching in shocked disbelief as our 80-something-year-old grade school teacher—Mrs. Fernley—took off her wig, swung it around in the air, and danced a jig after our December 1971 Christmas program was over.
Christmas is, and will always be…in our memories, but especially in our hearts.
In closing, thank you for your words of encouragement about my blog posts. I promise to continue sharing stories as long as you would like to read or hear them. May you have more love, joy, and peace in the new year than your heart can possibly handle.
Holiday love and good cheer,