Tag Archives: decorating


Today is Halloween, so I guess late in the day it’s ok to begin talking about Christmas.  I hate to do it because I like Halloween, and there is still Thanksgiving yet to come.  A very important holiday.  But this is kind of business related so here we go…

This weekend the antique mall where I have one of my shops is having it’s Christmas open house.  I know, it’s very early in the year for that.  Gotta give customers plenty of time to shop for Christmas items, and gifts of all sort.  And I like all the festive feeling and merry making of the holidays.

Anyway, the owner of the mall asked all the dealers to write up a little blurb on our favorite Christmas memory.  When I gave mine to her the other day she acted like I was the only one who had submitted anything.  Too bad…  I don’t really know what she’s planning to do with these stories, but it was fun to reminisce a little while putting mine together.

I have lots of Christmas memories.  Good and bad.  Favorite gifts.  Funny events.  Great experiences.  I saw the Pope at eh Vatican one year.  But one thing kept coming back into my head over and over.  It was the tree.  I’ve always had a live one.  Sometimes so alive it needed to be planted in the ground after the season.  And sometimes barely hanging on until its last needle turned brown and fell off.

Big trees and little trees.  Firs and pines and cypress.  Anything green.  But its not just the tree that stands out.  Its what we did to the tree preparing it for the holidays.  Making it beautiful….

My favorite Christmas memory is not of one event, but of one that happens every year. And every time with a different result. No, its not like in the movie Groundhog Day where I get to come back over and over to do it again until I get it right. I get it right every time. It just turns out differently. I decorate he Christmas tree.

When I was a kid Christmas Eve morning meant going to the garage to grab the tree we had chosen and cut in the forest the previous weekend. It sat in a bucket of water waiting for this day. My dad and I would wrestle it into the house and get it set up in its stand.

After lunch I was given the honor of putting all of the light on its boughs. String after string I’d test the lights and replace burned out bulbs, carefully choosing the color to be placed in each socket. This was the old days wen bulbs screwed in and could be replaced. When one loose or missing bulb shut down the whole string. And when each bulb had to be clipped on to the tree branch.

After dinner we would break out boxes and boxes of ornaments and everyone in the family would carefully hang dozens of them. A very eclectic looking tree, just as the members of my family are very much individuals.

We’d go to a Christmas Eve church service and when we returned home the children would drift of to bed. Not to sleep though! My mother would then get busy hanging tinsel on the tree.   Each strand carefully place to reflect the multicolored lights. She always told us that Santa Claus had put the tinsel on the tree. And the tree would remain in place until January 6th, the day of Epiphany. Thus, the twelve days of Christmas.

Now that I have my own family some of that has changed. I still do the lights, but now its much more a matter of shoving the strings into the tree, burying the lights deep to give a sense of depth. I usually forget to test them until after they are on the tree, and find that some work and others don’t. Or maybe I’ve strung them somehow I’ve sequenced the strings wrong so one has no power. But it always ends up beautifully lt.

And stays up for a long time. Going up right after Thanksgiving, we enjoy it all of December. The Southern tradition is that it must come down before New Years, which we observed of r many years. Now though, we put it up early and leave it up until the last needle is dried up and falls off. Well, not quite. It comes down in Epiphany.

Lots of other great holiday memories, but this one I get to refresh every year. To make it better perhaps, but always to make it memorable.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?


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The Sign

Signs make a difference. They identify things to make our lives easier. Enter and exit. Men and women. Price tags. They tell you where to go, how much things cost, what you are looking at and in general allow us to understand without thinking so much.

The other day I was at the art museum and while I’m pretty good at figuring out what I’m looking at, reading the sign put up by the show’s curator sometimes brings me new insights. Who might have thought that a blank white canvas titled “Empty” was really a deep and penetrating examination of the loss of interaction and communication between individuals dwelling in our urban areas? That is a better, or at least more intellectually satisfying explanation of the blank canvass than would be scam artist trying to pull a fast one and expose the snobbery of art aficionados looking for a deeper meaning in a blank canvas slapped up on the wall as a joke. Jokes on you sucker!

Of course the same sign can have very different meanings for different people. That octagonal red sign so often seen on our streets means to some people “stop!” To others it means slow down a little, look both ways and speed on. And to still others it means nothing. Yesterday a sign was put in my front yard. It says “for sale.”

Twenty years ago I bought this piece of property and built a nice house. I’ve lived here with my family ever since. My two daughters grew up here and I’ve experienced all the joys and sadness of raising children here. I’ve painted the inside of the house and decorated it to reflect my style, taste and personality. I’ve planted trees and shrubs and flowers to make the outdoors satisfying to me. I’ve done many things here, all tucked away in my mind, some further back than others.

We have been talking of selling the house for sometime now. Ok, lets get it ready. And I’ve cleaned and scrubbed and painted and planted and beautified to make it appeal to another family. I’ve told myself that it’s a building with four walls and a roof. No emotional attachment. After all, I lived in my last house for seven years and never thought of it as mine. Selling the house will be like selling an empty picture frame at a yard sale.

My wife on the other hand talks about how emotional it all is. Our children grew up here. It’s been twenty years of our lives. I remind her that her family moved three times before she graduated from high school. And that my parents moved from the house where I lived for thirteen years the day after I graduated from high school. It’s just a house. Home is where the heart is. All that. The kids seem ok with the whole thing, but they do say that this is where they grew up.

And then the sign went up in the yard and I signed the deal with the real estate agent. I could feel my heart sink. This is my home. I’ve been here for twenty years. So many memories. Even the ones in deep storage came flooding back.

And now I look at selling the house as a matter of personal pride. This is the greatest house ever built and if you, Mr. and Mrs. Buyer, can’t see that then there is something dreadfully wrong with you. I’m waiting to be insulted with low ball offers. And I’m waiting for the perfect buyer to come along.

To a buyer, the sign says “this house is for sale, check it out.” For me, the sign says that a huge part of my life is about to change.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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Brighter Bulbs

For my own peace of mind I had to tell them.  Didn’t want them to think any other way.  Sure, I can still do it.  No problem.  It’s just, well, maybe its time to let someone else help a little more.  They have always relied on me for this although I have tried to get them to help in the past.  Back then they were not too interested.  Maybe now, if they want it done, they’ll have to help a lot more.

Since I fell, and broke my shoulder blade, they won’t let me do a lot of things anymore.  No climbing on ladders.  I have though.  And no carrying heavy objects.  I do.  Be careful!  We all know, even if we don’t say it, that I was very lucky, and next time, which they  are trying to prevent, I might not be.

So, the Christmas decorations will need some new installers.  I’ve always climbed up the ladder, beyond the safe step, and held the column with one hand and leaned waaaaaaaaay out to attach the string of icicle lights to the gutter on the front porch.  Or leaned the ladder against the wall and held on to nothing more than the mortar joints between the courses of bricks to reach high enough to get the string of lights attached to the gutter over the garage.

The ladder I use is a kind of medium size one.  Too short to easily reach these heights, but not so long as to be unmanageable.  I’ve set up a forty foot extension ladder by myself in the past.  Not easy, even when all your parts work.  So the daredevil contortions are necessary to get the job done.  One year I stood on the roof and leaned over to put the lights on the gutter, but I didn’t like that approach too much.

This year, I went to get my haircut and when I came home my youngest daughter had put up everything but the icicle lights.  And she did a great job of it too.  I adjusted a few placements here and there, just to look like I was still in charge, but she did it.  I still had to do the icicles.  But this year, instead of doing it by myself when everyone else was out shopping, the whole family was there.  Me on the ladder with my wife holding my feet, and my youngest holding the ladder and the oldest holding lights and reaching out to catch me.   The dog was just sitting there watching the whole thing.

I still had to do some daredevil things.  And I realized that I could fall.  I told my wife that this time the bushes would catch me.  More likely impale me.  But I was very careful to be very careful.  More so than in years past.

They put the lights on the Christmas tree too.  I’ve been doing that since I was a kid.  It’s always been my job.  But they did it.  Except for the few adjustments I made when they were done.  Still in command!

It’s hard to admit some things.  Like the fact that time brings changes.  Or that at some point we can’t do the things we used to.  In my mind its tough to accept the fact that my hair is turning grey.  But in their minds, I’m still the dad.  Still the husband.  Still superman.  But the torch is being passed.  And brighter bulbs will soon be in charge.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?  www.personalhistorywriter.com

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