By Craig Hastings
It’s 11:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Eve, and I’m just out of bed after an hour long nap. Yep, I took a nap when most normal people would have laid down for their entire night’s sleep. My brain flip-flopped my days and nights after a fall I took in 2004 and has yet to recover. A couple of days ago I raided my in-house storage area of the totes and boxes that contained the interior Christmas decorating inventory. I’ve got my storage area packed with various totes and boxes that contain Halloween decorations, autumn decorations, Thanksgiving decorations, and finally my Christmas decorations. My problem with my in-house storage area is that the doors span 36 inches and from there the storage space goes immediately right and left. This causes me to have to remove one season’s totes and boxes in order to get to the ones I need. Add to that I have to move a couch to get to the doors, and it makes for a time consuming event just to get to the totes and boxes I need.
So each season change I plan an evening just to get ready to switch out my décor. Of course, the autumn stuff gets mixed with the Thanksgiving stuff, because they are kinda one in the same. However, Shannon has managed to collect so much of this particular fall décor we have to break the two fall events into two separate ones. Me, when I was here a single guy, I could do Halloween, autumn, and Thanksgiving in one big decorating event. I’d start planning and unpacking just after the new school year started. I was then properly decorated until Thanksgiving Eve.
Christmas has always been by far the seasonal event that takes the most time for me to plan and set up in my house. I have cut the time for Christmas set up in half this year. I did not put up any of the lights outside in the yard and around my driveway for the first time since 1994 when I bought and moved into this house. I live on a dead-end street, so the only people that really ever saw my yard lights were my neighbors that had to pass by en route to their own homes just down from my own. However, when I moved into this house I was married to Kalee, and we were raising her son Kalan who was 6 years old at the time, and he was always thrilled with the outdoor decorations, and I was thrilled that he was thrilled.
In 2001 our son Payton was born so about the time Kalan was over the outdoor Christmas lights it was time to get reinvigorated with my planning and doing. His brother Lukas followed in 2003, so it was game on with my decorating efforts for every season. I really didn’t mind though. I was still enjoying the lights myself in the early 2000’s so getting outside in the chilly weather wasn’t a big deal, especially when I would see the boys’ eyes light up just as bright, and I also enjoyed side stepping the same questions they would ask every year about that mysterious man called “Santa.” Could life be any better? I think not.
So tonight as I write this piece my boys are ages 17 and 15 years. Why in the world am I still putting so much effort in decorating the interior of my home for Christmas? They have both told me for the past two years that it wasn’t a big deal to them if I backed off a little with my efforts. However, they are both still all in with the Halloween decorations and more ghosts and ghouls would be okay! Halloween over Christmas? Who raised these kids anyway? The answer is obviously me and without any of my own influence Payton and Lukas have followed their father into the realm of mystery and magic! I’m a Halloween #1 guy myself. Even though I love the Christmas season; Halloween is my favorite, and my boys’ favorite even though there are no gifts wrapped in my Mummy.
I guess you would categorize my boys as the new generation millennials. They are by no means into the traditional seasonal celebrations like my own generation. When I noticed their lack of enthusiasm with Christmas lights and gift exchanging I first thought this change may have come from their parents getting divorced when they were ages 10 and 8, but when they were 10 and 8 and for several years after they never lost the fire they had always exhibited at Christmastime. Their mom and I only lived across town from one another, and we never fought over who they were going to spend what time and with which one of us. As I began to share my concerns with other parents I soon learned this was more of a generation thing than their upbringing.
Tonight as I stare at the Christmas totes and boxes I’m trying to decide if I should put most of it away sans the tree decorations and the “fake” tree or do I unpack all of it and pick a few things to set out. I picked door number two and starting unpacking it all and after I could see it all I would pick the items dearest to me from my own upbringing for display. The rest would be packed up together and clearly marked on their storage containers: “banished Christmas inventory.” These things wouldn’t ever need to be unpacked again unless by some Christmas miracle I ever became a grandparent. If I become a grandparent some day, not only will these extra Santas, reindeer, lights, bulbs, music boxes, and ceramic village pieces become essential, but I’ll be on a shopping rampage to make up for lost years of not adding to my collection of interior AND exterior decorations. Oh no, Santa won’t miss this house because it wasn’t clearly marked indicating: “Grandchildren here!”
Well, all of this you’ve read was my plan tonight. As I unpacked all of my Christmas goods I’ve accumulated over my 43 years of not living at home I began to think. You see I don’t just buy any ol’ Christmas decorations. When I pick something up and look at it, it must ring a bell. A bell that reminds me of something or somebody near and dear to me. Or maybe it might spark a memory of a moment during the Christmas season. Usually, it’s a moment spent with my own sons or my siblings in the 1960’s. So many wonderful memories have stayed with me from my Christmases with my own brothers and sister in our home in this same neighborhood I live in today. That home is still occupied by my mother just 300 yards from my own home.
Something happened tonight. Something that had already happened to me each year I pick up my Christmas treasures deciding where in the house it will set this Christmas. What happened tonight was I was truthful with myself. I’m going to stop hiding behind my reasoning that what I’m doing is for everyone else dear to me. I decorate to the extreme in my home at Christmas for myself. Not a selfish “for me.” Rather, I do it because all of these things I have accumulated over all of my Christmases remind me of my own Christmas past year by year. I attach my own memory diary to all of these Christmas bits and bobs. I’ve justified adding to my collection over the years because “The boys would like this.”
I’m still not braving the cold and the rain to set up the exterior though. Nothing about the outside draws any memories other than cold during setup and even colder during take down! Nope, I won’t shed a tear when I look out my big picture window from now until Dec. 25 and not see yard décor. I’ll drive around town and look at yours if I need an exterior Christmas decorations fix. So, Payton and Lukas, these decorations are for me! I’ll share their awesomeness with you if you care to, but, if not, I’ve come to grips with the fact I over display because I want to sit in the dark and stare into the colored lights because I want to whether anyone else in this house wants to or not. Oh yeah, if you’re lucky enough and time your visits right, you just might get to listen to my nonstop Christmas piano music too. I’ll be in my recliner with eyes wide open, but I’ll be in another zone of my own and might not notice you right away! One day you just might be lucky enough to understand what Christmas means to me. You will see you’re a gigantic part of it, for sure.