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My mother loved to decorate her house for every holiday and occasion, but never more so than at Christmas.
I can still remember all sorts of variations of lights and manger scenes through the years. And as we have been fixing up the old house, we have found remains of almost all of them! In addition, we have decorations that have been collected in our other houses and Christmas creations of our kids, so there is no lack of décor to go through each year.
The truth is, my mother herself had well over three houses full of decorations, and along with our collections it was massive. So we have religiously vowed year after year to weed out what we don’t use and donate the rest away so others can enjoy. And this year I am happy to say we are down from some four or five Christmas trees to simply one.
The hardest one to part with was my favorite 9-foot tree, which I had bargain-bid down to a mere $25 well over a decade ago like the old man in “A Christmas Story” (no matter we only have 8-foot ceilings in my parents’ old house — who wants to give up such a deal, or at least the story of such a deal?)
Well, we’ve got it down to probably only two or three times as much as we need this year. My wife was tastefully in charge of the interior while I took care of the exterior with my inner Clark Griswold sated by my eave-covered lights all around the outside of the house and five Leyland cypresses lit up so that they look like five outdoor Christmas trees in a row.
But our front door seemed to be lacking.
Now, we had just tossed, donated or benched a bunch of “has-been” wreaths in our downsizing, but the thought of wrapping the door like a giant gift just didn’t fit my feeling of feng shui festivity I was shooting for. Also, you should see the travesty that results when I try to wrap a normal sized package — can you imagine a door? So I took to looking for a new wreath. Long story short: Wreaths = gaudy and expensive.
What to do? I was at a loss until I found this wretched little plain Charlie Brown Christmas tree equivalent of a wreath at Walmart for $2. Two bucks! For two bucks, I can do gaudy on my own!
So, during one of the busiest seasons of the year, I eyed up my green-furred circular canvas and culled through gobs of memories and cobbled together my own gaudy masterpiece of love.
Like Charlie Brown’s tree, my wreath was made of second-string rejects that didn’t make the main stage of the family tree. At the very top are an angel and a bell that remind me of my mother. On the left-hand side is an ornament made from a handprint from our daughter in the first grade to look like a turkey or a reindeer (at least that’s what art critics have concluded). On the right-hand side is an ornament made by our son Ryan that is a simple Santa head colored when he was in kindergarten, which is doubly significant because it looks exactly like a big Styrofoam Santa head at his grandmother’s that he shot right between the eyes with his first BB gun at the instruction of his grandfather.
There is a giant snowflake to which I attached a little sled ornament with my wife’s name engraved because she loves the snow so much. There is even a Wolverine figure hanging on the edge, as that Marvel character is synonymous with my best friend and adopted family member, Chris. And there is a 2D depiction of the wise men to which I attached a 3D little baby Jesus in a manger to remember what Christmas is all about.
The other few pieces are typical images of Christmas that have been around for years and years in one box or another.
When I was done, I actually had some stuff left over, but the wreath was sort of lacking in real estate (hey, what do you want for $2?) and I realized I didn’t have an ornament or symbol for myself (how in the world could one so self-absorbed have been so careless?) But I kind of liked the balance I had achieved, and I had already spent way too much time twisting tiny wires with bumbling fingers. And then I reached a satisfied conclusion.
The “me” in my creation was the wreath itself: an almost worthless canvas on which has been imparted facets of love and devotion, memories and memorials. In fact, the very aspects that give character to that Charlie Brown wreath are the very aspects that give meaning to this Charlie Brown life. For without those influences and a million more, I doubt I would be worth even the two bucks.
So, take what you need from today’s column of decorating tips. Maybe how to spruce up your door for less. How to decorate that worthless wreath. Or maybe even how to decorate a life!
Pastor Zach Harris has been an ordained minister for 27 years and currently serves Ascension Lutheran Church in Wilson. His column, “Through a Lutheran Lens: A Pastor’s Perspective,” appears weekly in The Wilson Times. Previous columns are available at WilsonTimes.com.