I’m ashamed of it.
I wish I didn’t have to fess up.
But now that we’ve had coffee together so many times, I feel, like, obligated to be up front with you on stuff and…
I was once a Christmas decorating snob.
No. No I don’t.
I think I need to delve deeper.
Here we go.
I don’t know when it started. I think it was way back on Pringle Street (yes, for those of you who are new to Dingleville, I grew up on Pringle Street and, no, I’m not kidding).
My best friend was Michele (one ‘L’) Bernetich and she lived up the street from me on a dirt road, that later became a paved road, called Hill St. Ext. (which I’d originally read as ‘Hill Street Exit’, and assumed it was the exit for Hill Street, onto Pringle Street. Because why wouldn’t it be? It was on Christmas Even, when I was 22 years old, that I discovered that I’d been mistaken for all those years).
I’ve been silent about that until now.
That is how much I trust you people.
Anyway, Michele (one ‘L’) Bernetich was my best friend, and she lived up the street form me.
At Christmas time, my own family’s decorations consisted of a manager, complete with the requisite peat moss (do you really think the actual messiah was surrounded by peat?) and a diminutive baby Jesus that always ended up out of his crèche and hanging out with my Fisher Price Little People in their red school house with the fold down front wall that was also a chalkboard.
So we had our manger, a few cardboard images of Santa (one for the blue mirror hanging in the living room, one for the front door), and a horrible 18″ statue of Santa, which had a doll’s head and a body covered in some sort of scrunched red and white plastic stuff. This statue was made all the more terrifying by the fact that his head had been knocked off at some point (don’t blame me) and, because of the chemical composition of the plastic stuff, no glue ever seemed to work to keep it on, so his head continually and unexpectedly tumbled to the floor.
You are thinking that years of suggested therapy were in my future even then.
And you are right!
And of course, we had the Christmas tree, the tangled light fiasco every year, and the periodic trips to the hospital with Mom for stitches.
What, that wasn’t a Christmas tradition in your family?
We need to talk.
But Michele Bernetich’s house?
It. Was. Awesome.
Have you ever seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?
That was nothin’.
Michele Bernetich’s house had way more than that.
And the lights were all white.
Michele’s Mom, Rachelle, had a very thick Boston accent mixed with a certain je ne sais quoi that maybe comes with marrying a very Italian family (Michele’s Dad’s name was ‘Vito’). It was sort of a Real Housewives of New Jersey accent, but without ‘R’s.
So Michele’s Mom explained to me that white lights were a lot more classy than colored lights and that’s why she used them.
And those white twinkle lights were everywhere. They were all around each window, and all around the huge Greek-style columns in front of their house. Their bushes twinkled and they had candle lights in every single window (even the back ones!) and their Christmas three sparkled in their twinkle light-bedecked bay window.
Ah, to my eight, nine, ten, and beyond-year-old mind, they had the life.
And theirs didn’t contain a wHierd, beheaded toxic plastic encrusted Santa.
So one day, I was a grown up.
In my own house (okay, my own condo).
And Christmas was approaching.
And can you guess what we decorated with?
A nice, classy assortment of white twinkle lights, along with a splash of greenery with red bows (and white lights), and a Christmas tree (again, white lights) and no statues of Santa at all (well, we had no kids yet, and I was still coming to terms with the whole headless Santa thing).
And now here comes the snob part.
So over the next few weeks, John and I set out on a series of planned and unplanned jaunts (car-based) through nearby neighborhoods and, as expected, other people used (gasp!)…
And not only that!
Sometimes they put large, plastic snowmen on their lawns!
Or huge plastic candy canes!
Or, yes, even Santas!
I once even saw an entire lawn decorated with plastic, pink flamingos in Santa hats!
Oh the humanity-ie
All of those poor, misguided holiday decorators.
All of those homeowners who hadn’t had the benefit of guidance by Mrs. Bernatich toward classy white twinkle lights instead of colored lights and plastic monstrosities.
So now fast forward to my thirties.
I live in chic and trendy Dunstable with my husband (same one).
I have three wonderful cherubs.
It’s Christmas time.
We still make traditional pilgrimages, with the kids now, through local towns to see folks’ Christmas light displays.
I am still not very impressed with colored lights, nor plastic replicas of winter characters (and you wouldn’t even want to get me started on the ‘sparkle deer’ (especially the ones that are robotic and can move)).
And then, one night, we passed a house I had never seen decorated for Christmas before.
It was an old white house, with a decrepit horse barn out back.
This house had more plastic and blow-up Christmas characters than I’d ever seen at one house. The house was covered with colored lights – not all perfectly strung – just hanging here and there.
It was obvious that the wind had blown some light strands out of place, and there was an eight foot-tall Frosty the Snowman teetering dangerously beside a broken porch (but his head was still attached to his body, so it was only mildly terrifying).
To my way of thinking, this was a decorating disaster.
There were no white twinkle lights.
There were far too many colors.
And I was not fooled for a second into thinking that any of these characters was even close to real.
And then my Nearly Perfect Husband said something awesome.
Something that changed my entire outlook on holiday decorations.
“Boy. They must really love Christmas time.”
And it hit me like a ton of disembodied Santa heads.
And I was very quiet (unusual, but not unprecedented).
Those people did really love Christmas.
They must have!
They had obviously worked really hard to put up all those characters and decorations.
It must have taken them days to just get their lights up.
And my guess was that they did it every year.
And they weren’t selfish about it either.
They had a house that was right at the road.
They were sharing their holiday decorations with every person who drove by.
That year, I bought my first set of colored lights, and my kids decorated the bushes in front of our house with them.
They did a terrible job.
It was all wrong.
And it was totally right.
And from that day on, I’ve had an overwhelming appreciation for everyone who decorates their home at this time of year – whether it be with a few candle lights in the windows, or an all out color and plastic-infused extravaganza.
I still like twinkle lights too.
Except headless Santas.
Those are never okay.
Thanks for readin’-ie
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