I admit it. By the time the boys were teenagers, my enthusiasm for decorating for the holidays, putting up a large Christmas tree, hanging lights on the house, and later taking it all down and putting it away again was so minuscule it could only be detected through a microscope.
This was eventually followed by the day when I sold the family house and, for the first time in decades, I no longer owned a house, hose, lawn mower, wheel barrow, outside holiday lights, or an extension ladder. Of course I paid for packing and security locker storage of the indoor holiday decorations we had bought together, along with all of those Halloween, Easter, and Thanksgiving items the kids had made in school. Those were of obvious historic and sentimental importance, weren’t they? In the meantime, Liberation! The “Urban Condo Period” of my life had begun.
Then Linda came along and everything changed hue. Throughout our wonderful urban condo years together, holiday decorating totaled:
- a wreath on the front door
- extra candles Linda placed around strategically
- a lovely but reusable 4’ decorator-designed tree I bought at a charity auction.
Decorating for the holidays became a 20-minute process. Putting everything away took 15 minutes.
Eventually I was struck by the we’re-too-young-to-get-too-comfortable-so-let’s-go-challenge-ourselves-while-we’re-still-young-enough bug. Developmental Psychologists who believe in walking their talk will tend, as a part of integrity, to do these things. The idea was that if we could move to a really well-selected place where we knew no one and then build a great life for ourselves within 5 years, nothing was going to happen to us for the rest of our lives that we couldn’t handle together. The theory has since proved to be sound in practice.
To begin our challenge to ourselves, we built a template of great-fit characteristics. We spent 3 years looking for a place that would work for both and each of us. It had to be someplace where we could pursue our interests and continue our work with no desire to “retire”.
The 5-year experiment began when we found a great-fit area on the opposite coast, bought a house we loved, and moved across the country. We kept our city condo as a fallback, renting it instead of selling it. All of our good friends were supportive. Several of them still think we’re crazy but have finally given up waiting for us to move back.
Our 1st Holiday Season in the new house was limited to decorations A thru C above from our Urban Condo Period. The following year, to our great surprise, we acquired a 10’ Christmas tree for our living room which we happily spent 2 full days decorating with our large assortment of tree and home decorations (fresh from security storage after all those years). We had tree ornaments my parents collected throughout my childhood, Linda’s parents’ ornaments from the earliest days of their marriage, ornaments we had each acquired through the years, and ornaments we had given each other. We did have to sort through and purge the junk and, I admit it again, dump much of that stuff the kids had made years ago that no longer seemed to be of such obvious historic and sentimental value. Actually I wondered why I had kept all that stuff they didn’t care about. In the end the tree looked great and we had plenty of ornaments for all 10’. We bought more anyway. And we have looked forward to doing all of it again every holiday season.
Now we’re approaching the 10th Holiday Season of our 5-year experiment. A full decade of life can make a big difference in preferences and priorities for all of us. We have benefited and prospered in our now-not-so-new location and have no regrets about having made the big leap. It’s still lovely after all this time to be back in a real house with bigger rooms, higher ceilings and lots of space and light. We enjoy having room for our professional work and special, personal projects and interests without having to put them away in a closet or drawer all the time. We have great confidence in the quality of the experience and skills we’ve accrued over these years.
What brings all of this up? The holidays do. It’s Appreciation Time for all who have become part of our lives as well as for the depth and breadth of our friendships.
I concede the 10” tree is looking taller and more daunting than it did 10 Christmases ago when we bought it, but it really goes with the house and who we are in it. Of course, we have the added inspiration of living in this neighborhood. Ours is one of the few houses that won’t have imaginative outdoor holiday lights. Down the street you’ll find a 16’ Frosty made of industrial-strength chicken wire with a gazillion lights. For counterpoint there’s a lighted Menorah in one yard and a house where not one bush or tree has escaped some form of seasonal electrification.
This all makes a 10’ tree in our living room seem like a really happy tradition for Linda and me. None of us knows what the future will bring or what decisions we’ll face. The day will come when a desire for simplification will overtake us, and we’ll be on to the next residential period of our lives. After 18 years together we know our lives, like most people’s, won’t unroll like a ribbon in a straight line. We’ve kept our 4’ decorator tree all these years as a happy remembrance and just in case we need it again someday in smaller quarters.
Our holiday commitment to ourselves and to our friends is to open-eyed “normalcy” in a world currently sloshing through changes we hadn’t imagined and can’t control. In the “spirit of normal” our tree is decorated with memories, hopes, good intentions, and sincere best wishes to all of you and yours for happy times during the Holidays and throughout the coming year.
Blessings from our home to you and yours.