Saturday, December 11th has begun with a fine mist covering the ground. Water droplets cling to the red fruits of the winterberry holly bush outside of my home office window. Once in a while a blue and white Amazon van or brown and gold UPS truck whizzes by, interrupting the stillness.
The post-Thanksgiving spike in the number of Covid cases reminds me I’d better resume my stay-at-home status. I might not revisit the Emma Amos exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art after all. Maybe I should reconsider going to a nearby movie theater one afternoon next week. No movie is worth endangering my health and that of my loved ones.
Always busy with one thing or another, I won’t be bored while I’m homebound. I can start assembling the upholstery fabric samples I collected last year, piece them together, and try to create a quilt. But…I don’t sew. Not even a stitch. My last fabric project occurred when I was in the eighth grade and had to take the mandated “cooking and sewing” class. Cooking went well. Sewing, not so much. Filled with ambition and drawn to a popular style of the day, I went to the fabric store where I selected a Simplicity pattern for a tartan plaid kilt…with pleats, a row of fringe, and a shiny, gold mega-sized safety pin. A few hours into the project, I waved the white flag of defeat during the pinning and basting stage. The following spring, I put the fabric to good use every time I washed and dried our family’s car. I can’t remember what became of the large decorative safety pin.
You, my dear readers, are no doubt facing a similar situation. Not about an abandoned fabric-related project, but the wisdom of going to holiday parties, dining with friends in restaurants, or shopping in stores side-by-side with the masked and unmasked. On the upside, if you decorate your home for the holidays, you have the time and resourcefulness to outdo yourself. You can bake until your oven cries “uncle,” play and sing along with every holiday song ever recorded and create holiday greeting cards replete with those newsy family reports that you find annoying when you’re the recipient.
Why is it taking me so long this year to transform our home into a Christmas vision worthy of Martha Stewart’s approval? My spouse has done her perennial best to Christmas-fy our home’s exterior. She placed swags on the fence, the wreath on the front door, a new mailbox cover featuring poinsettias, and strings of clear lights around the two evergreens flanking the front door. She remembered to display the old sled (a relic from one of her walks on trash collection day,) with its “Peace” ribbon.
Okay, I’ve done a few things. The fireplace mantle has its customary greenery. The small fully decorated Christmas tree is in its place in the sunroom. The second-floor window boxes are festooned with ribbons and winter décor. Ho-ho-ho!
Keep in mind that we prefer conservative, tasteful decorations. Then, imagine our stunned surprise the first year the neighbors who live directly across the street from us constructed their holiday display. The cast of a thousand figures includes: statues of choir boys, a fully populated crèche (including the barn animals,) several santas, candy canes, toy soldiers, flags, wreathes, a wooden Christmas tree, potted poinsettias, velvet ribbons, lighted shrubs, the Grinch and his elf, pine roping across every inch of fence, and a sleigh pulled by reindeer. To date, there are sixty-two ornaments hanging, sitting, prancing, laying, and blowing in the breeze. Did I mention all the strings of large multi-colored lights?
Every evening at dusk, our neighbor flips a switch, and we are transported to the set of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!” If we plan to spend time gazing from our front windows, we apply 30 SPF sunburn lotion to our faces.
If our décor exemplifies minimilism, our neighbors’ is full-blown Rococo.
Guess what! We love it! There’s something about those retro-sized lights along with the juxtaposition of toy soldiers, the Grinch, and Baby Jesus that makes us smile and forget all the bad stuff in our midst, if only for a brief while. Our neighbors’ reminder of Chevy Chase’s character’s exterior illumination talents brings laughter and optimism to the places where pessimism sometimes dwells. We need to remain hopeful about the future, and channel that hopefulness toward deeds that will end the pandemic and maintain our democracy.
With that thought in mind, I wish everyone a peaceful, healthy, and happy holiday season.
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Renée Bess is the author of five novels and the co-story collector of an award-winning anthology, OUR HAPPY HOURS, LGBT VOICES FROM THE GAY BARS. Her latest book, BETWEEN A ROCK AND A SOFT PLACE, is available at amazon.com, bellabooks.com, kobobooks.com, and can be ordered from bookstores.