Unlike many people, I am not a Black Friday shopper. For me, the day after Thanksgiving has always been the perfect time to begin decorating for Christmas.
When our family was younger, my husband was a retail manager, who had a well-developed talent for opening new stores. Spring often signaled a transfer to a new town, a new opportunity.
As a dutiful wife in the ‘70s and ‘80s, this mean that I had to find us new rental housing in an unfamiliar location, as buying when moving this frequently was out of the question. While he went ahead and got started, I packed our belongings and oversaw the actual move. These responsibilities were easy, though, in comparison to convincing our young sons that, yes, they would have a bevy of friends again.
Somehow I always managed to get us moved – lock, stock, and barrel – in time for the boys to have several months at their new school before summer. Once classes were over, though, the three of us always left to visit their grandparents and cousins in the D.C. area, providing them with a yearly bout of continuity while their father would’ve been absent from the house anyway – completely immersed in his work. The last week of our visit, their dad would join us for our annual family reunion in Ocean City, Maryland.
With only a few weeks of summer left on our return, the boys spent much of their time outdoors playing until the fateful day inevitably arrived that required their return to their classrooms.
Now, alone again during the day, I would unpack any remaining boxes, hang the pictures that were still stacked against the converging walls of a corner, and gradually make friends among my neighbors. My husband, his new store open at last, would settle into a more comfortable routine. All of us would have told you at this point of the year that it felt as if we were camping out in someone else’s house.
Then the weather would turn colder, the leaves would fall, and Son #2’s birthday and Thanksgiving would occasionally coincide. Out of town family would usually arrive to help celebrate, pies would stand ready along the kitchen counters, and the aroma of a man-sized turkey roasting snugly within its foil blanket would fill our house. The Macy’s parade in the morning, a scrumptious dinner around two, and football the rest of the afternoon made for a wonderful day.
Last thing before going to bed, my husband would drag out our Christmas tree, leaving it ready in the living room.
The next morning, the alarm clock would ring forth while it was still dark, giving my husband a head start on what he fervently hoped would be a Black Friday for his store. Eyes half open, I would stumble to the kitchen in pursuit of my first pitcher of espresso, while he grabbed a shower. Our sons, who could have slept in, always popped up early, ready to get started.
As soon as they had seen their father on his way, they would set up the tree, while I began pulling out box after box of decorations from closets and cubbyholes here and there around the house. All of us knew it would be a long, busy day, because we weren’t merely decorating a tree. We were going to decorate a tree in each room, and we weren’t going to stop there.
It usually took us the whole weekend to finish, in part because I also utilized these three days to get a start on our Christmas baking. Through it all, we would pause and remember stories from Christmases past as we uncovered my childhood nativity, an advent calendar made by my mother, or the Styrofoam decorations their dad had made as a child, one of which sported a tank outlined by the heads of straight pins.
By the time my husband returned from work on Sunday evening, our house was ablaze with lights, sparkling with tinsel, and warmed by the glow of a fire beneath a mantle dripping with homemade Christmas stockings. Clearly exhausted, he would let out a deep sigh as a smile spread across his face and lifted his spirits, always maintaining that without Christmas World to come home to he would have easily lost sight of anything that even remotely represented a real Christmas.
After dinner, we would sip the first egg nog of the season as we watched one of our favorite Christmas movies, munching on popcorn and sampling cookies. Now and only now, the house had become ours, layered as it was by our Christmas traditions, and although the decorations would only remain visible for a few weeks, the house would remain our home beyond the season until we moved to our next assignment.
Last Christmas, I shipped my childhood nativity and the advent calendar his grandmother had made to Son #2, his older brother having already received some other items from Christmas World. My daughter-in-law shared with me that it was a joy for her to watch the child in him rise to the surface as each morning he would draw her to the calendar, reminding her if it was his day or hers to pin one of the numbered decorations onto the felt tree.
Then she laughed. “When it first arrived, he told me which ones were his favorites, and would you believe it? Every one of them has fallen on one of his days.”
As some of you will recall, I spent this Thanksgiving with Son #2 and the best daughter-in-law in the world. On the Saturday after, friends came over to watch the Iron Bowl and enjoy a delicious German meal of bratwurst, homemade spaetzle, and red cabbage cooked by the best daughter-in-law in the world. Between bites, one of the men looked around the room, before resting his eyes on my son.
“So, when will Christmas be throwing up at your place this year?” he asked, smiling.
Now, don’t laugh. It was a reasonable question. Hundreds of miles from friends and family, my son, too, had layered his new condo in Seattle with Christmas. Luckily, my daughter-in-law had signed on wholeheartedly after they were married, adding her own love of retro decorations into the mix as they established their first home. My son, of course, had already regaled her with a description of his childhood bedroom, replete with a fake fireplace, a full-sized nativity, and a 4 ft. fully decorated tree, where he had snuggled beneath a handmade granny-square afghan crocheted out of Christmas wool.
During this special season, look around you at work, in your neighborhood, and at your place of worship. Is there an individual or a family that is new to your area that may not have established firm roots yet? Remember, not everyone has a Christmas World held in reserve just in case they move to a new house. Reach out to them, include them in one of your family’s seasonal traditions, or share a meal with them. Be sure and include the children, who may still be grieving for friends left behind and struggling to make new ones.
And while you’re at it, don’t forget. Time is running out! To commemorate the upcoming holidays, each person who provides their name and email address to annieacorn.com between now and December 15, 2011, in the box on the top right of this page will be given a chance to win one of several FREE COPIES of the From Women’s Pens’ Christmas Anthology, One Last Gift.
Welcome aboard, and good luck!