Thanksgiving, as you know, is my favorite holiday. I get to cook to my heart’s content, everybody likes the food, and no one goes away hungry. The only stresses involved are wondering whether the turkey is done properly and figuring out where everyone will sit.
Christmas, on the other hand, is fraught with stress and anxiety: Will the tree dry out before The Day? Did I make enough poppy seed bread? Did I buy the right presents for the right people? Is the choir ready for Vespers? Do I have enough gelatin to make the marshmallows? Did I leave anybody out?
And this year, I have idiotically added to my list: How does the house look?
I agreed in the spring to participate in what I believe to be a worthy cause and volunteered our house for the State Fair Community College 50th Anniversary Christmas Homes Tour. This Sunday, seven area homes will be open to display their Christmas decor, and ours is on the list. Each homeowner has some connection with the College, and each has graciously acceded to allowing what could be a couple hundred people to tour their homes in the busiest time of the year.
My career with SFCC began on the evening after the space shuttle Challenger explosion that morning: Jan. 28, 1986. I was teaching a three-hour Comp II class, and I remember that no one was interested that night in Composition. We were all still in shock.
Since that day, I have taught at least one class in most semesters at SFCC, and so when Mary Truener, the head of the SFCC Foundation, asked if Max and I would join the tour, I thought it only appropriate to say yes.
Only after I agreed did I take into consideration that Max and I don’t decorate heavily for Christmas. He brought few Christmas traditions to our marriage, and I have followed my mother’s lead – doing a little decorating, instead spending most of December in the kitchen, whipping up food for gift baskets while Mario Lanza sings Christmas carols in the background.
So to make sure that the tour is successful, we have gone all out this year. We have lights everywhere, we have little trees in surprising places, we have poinsettias, the tiny house looks festive, and we have hung ornaments in windows – of course, matching ornament colors to room colors.
We have put out Max’s mother’s crèche, the one she hand painted many years ago, and I am using some of my great-grandmother’s quilts – the ones she hand-pieced and hand-quilted about the time the house was built. I hope someone takes time to look at the book of Christmas stories I have had – and read – since I was 5. Right next to it, I have put what is left of the little wax crèche I had when I was a child. Hildegarde, the devil dog, ate Joseph one year, and so only Mary and the baby remain.
Every Christmas, Max and I have bought a Baccarat crystal ornament, celebrating our years together. This year, our collection includes 35 of those ornaments, all of them hanging from chandeliers and little metal trees sturdy enough to hold the ornaments’ weight.
Even Chip and Jo have played a part in the decorating. Brilliant marketers, they have introduced a line of home décor, and they included Christmas decorations in the collection. Their pine garland is beautiful, and so we bought two 6-foot pieces, as well as a wreath. Now Max doesn’t like anything else we have because Chip and Jo’s pieces are far superior, he thinks. Fortunately for our pocketbooks, the entire line sold out in ALL Target stores before he could get his hands on it.
In any event, to say that we have gone overboard is understatement. But I admit that it has been fun. I’m looking forward to Sunday when the house is decked out in Christmas finery, when I have cranberry tea simmering on the stove – the aroma is heavenly – and when I play Christmas carols for hours as if I have nothing else to do.
Tickets for the event may still be available. Hope to see you here.