Send help 12-13: Keeping up with Christmas decor gets tougher each year

By JOHN LORSON Columnist Published:

Across the street from my house an eight-foot polar bear in a Santa hat grazes, face down on clover and acorns. His owners are seemingly unable to grasp the idea that the beast was meant to remain upright and could easily do so if he were simply held to the ground with anything beyond the electrical cord that breathes life into his ample nylon carcass from a small fan in his bottom.

Around the corner, a penguin the size of a sixth-grader hugs a giant candy cane while three elves stand, hand in hand, around a naked Dogwood tree as if it's about to mystically bristle with needles, bulbs and tinsel.

Just down the street, "Jack" tries desperately, night after night, to bank enough air in his behind to escape out the top of what appears to be a brightly-colored refrigerator box with a phony crank handle on the side. Creatures of the night, all; in the morning they will lay about the lawn like freshman frat boys after their first all-night keg party.

On my own front porch an un-carved pumpkin continues to pull double duty as both a Halloween and Thanksgiving decoration. (This should come as no real surprise as everyone knows I'm the kind of guy that gets the most out of his produce dollar.)

And while Kristin loves to lament the fact that our decorations typically remain stashed in the attic of the garage until a week or so before Christmas, she's no more willing than I am to face the hopeless tangle of half-lit lights, extension cords and faux greenery in the name of holiday cheer. Only when we are eventually overcome with a wave of nostalgia will either of us actually act.

It wasn't always this way. Long ago when our kids were young we all made a pretty big deal out of stringing the lights and setting up the incredible eight-foot-long "Santa and his reindeer" that had been carefully jig-sawed from a single sheet of plywood, then lovingly hand-painted by the previous owners of our house. This crew had miraculously escaped the auction that had emptied the place before we took possession -- this by hiding in the rafters above the garage door. We were convinced the "real" Santa actually left his likeness just for us. I had a lot of "help" back in those days, and the kids worked for cheap. A cup of hot chocolate and a couple of candy canes could buy a good half-hour of untangling (and oftentimes, re-tangling) strings of colored lights while all the while angling to be the first kid of the season to throw the big switch. Good times, indeed.

The closest we come to decorating as a family these days is when the gray-haired guy gets a text message from one of the kids once the whole shebang is in place saying, "Nice job on the lights, Pops!"

And that "nice" is just average at best. There are some activities which completely escape my competitive urge and decorating for Christmas is definitely one of them. Besides, the guy across the street has it all wrapped up as far as I'm concerned. No, not the one with the blown-over bear, mind you, but the neighbor just down the street from him who every year shines a spotlight on a simple, white Nativity scene with a sign next to it that says, "Keep the Christ in Christmas."

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