A small story:
A while ago, on a rainy Saturday before Christmas (which had lasted about seven months), my friend was staring bleakly at her daughters who were alternately torturing each other and her because it wasn't Christmas yet and the Shelf Elf wouldn't exist for years.
— Quinn Cummings (@quinncy) December 12, 2021
Just *not* on the living-room carpet, okay? Quinn Cummings, always an interesting read:
Finally, in desperation, my friend dragged out a box of cheap ornaments she had bought the day after Christmas the year before, grabbed every bottle of glue, glitter, paint the girls had, pulled the car out of the garage, spread out the supplies and told them to go nuts.
Which, they did.
For almost an hour – an eternity in small-child parenting – there was quiet and peace and almost no pinching. Once the ornaments were dry, they hung them outside in the yard because, as my friend said, “That glitter will never leave the living-room carpet.”…
Each year, a few got replaced or their glitter was freshened up or suddenly an old ornament developed feathers and a few more were added. By the time the girls were teens, they didn’t make them any more but woe betide the mother who didn’t zsush the yard…
Every year, my friend would send me the same text:
“Is this tacky? I feel as if it’s tacky. I love it, but it’s tacky, right?”
Every year, I’d write back, “No, it’s cheerful.”
“Not mutually exclusive,” she’d respond.
The girls went to college.
My friend put them up the day before the first one arrived home for the holidays.
Last year, the younger one graduated, such as it was, and began her life in another city, like her sister. Neither are coming back this year.
Yesterday, my friend brought out the ornament box.
For the twentieth year in a row, she decorated the yard and watched the people walking her block…
We were on FaceTime as she showed me the yard.
“This was the first year,” she said, “That people kept thanking me for doing this. People said they like how the ornaments look at night. A couple of them even said it’s not the holidays until our yard is decorated.”
“They’re grateful,” I suggested. I was going to expand upon that but realized that was the whole sentence.
“I guess,” she said simply.
A woman walked past the yard and, like so many before her that day, thanked my friend for doing this. My friend, as always, demurred.
“It’s silly,” my friend mumbled and this woman shook her head vehemently.
“It’s not silly. I babysit a two year old and we have to walk past your house every day so she and I can look at your yard. It makes people happy. The nights are long right now. We need a little light.”
My friend said nothing for a few seconds and then I heard her breathe deeply.
“Well,” she said, quietly, “I’m happy to provide that.”
The woman smiled at her and said, “We’ll be by in a while” as she kept walking.
My friend let the FaceTime drift from the babysitter to an ornament, layered with years of artistic endeavor.
“The yard looks wonderful,” I said.
For once, she didn’t disagree.