News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

December 6, 2011

LIZ CIANCONE: How much 'twinkle' do we need for holidays?

I had an especially dear friend who went into a blue funk in Christmas season. She once threatened to spell out “Bah, Humbug!” in twinkle lights on her lawn.

Of course, she was a super achiever who wanted Christmas to be perfect for her family. This entailed endless baking and decorating and shopping and cleaning and she was the mother of sons who preferred outdoor sports to kitchen activity.

It wasn’t just her own family Christmas. Lorna was a born decorator, so come Dec. 1, friends would invite her to lunch or dinner, confront her with mounds of evergreen and holiday stuff, then with an apologetic cough, ask for a suggestion of what to do with it all. Hours later, covered with pine needles and sticky pine sap, she’d wolf down her lunch and go home to find her own house needed TLC.

She wanted Christmas to be perfect for everyone. Maybe we became special friends because I never asked her to put up my tree or decorate my front door.

I went with her many times looking for the perfect gift for someone on her list. One year a business associate of her husband had moved into a new house with a fireplace. Nothing would do but a pair of andirons for the fireplace and before Santa slid down the chimney. We visited every antique store in the Wabash Valley before the perfect pair was found. No wonder she was pooped by Christmas.

Lately, I toy with the idea of “Bah, Humbug” lights myself. I’ve given myself a break from dozens of Christmas cookies, and once the boys grew up, my Best Friend and I quit heading for the woods to cut the perfect tree to hold family ornaments and shelter a heap of presents. I still do the gift wrap, not my favorite thing, but it’s nice to slip a tree out of a box and plug it in. It has simplified things a lot.

Maybe I caught a germ from Lorna? I’d still like to make a perfect Christmas for my nearest and dearest, but slipping an orange and a candy bar into a sock doesn’t cut it these days. I got confused when the grandchildren began fingering something called a “game boy.” Now everything seems electronic. I have no idea what an iPod is, but they seem to have all the gadgets anyway. It’s an electronic world today and I got lost in the buggy whip department.

I’ll try to do too much. I always do. I’ll try not to do to much. I always do that, too. But, for now, I’ve put twinkle lights on hold.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to

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