News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

December 14, 2009

The Off Season: ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas…’

A cheap string of Christmas lights frames my big office window in these days leading to the holidays.

The blues and greens and reds cheer me a bit on an otherwise gloomy night that has already seen snow and rain and wind batter us homeward from work in the hope that our gas furnace will warmly greet us.

Diana Krall’s silky-smooth voice serenades me from my bookshelf stereo with “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” and I can smell the faint scent of a Black Hills Spruce that we have decorated in our living room. Our housecat, Arthur, snoozes beneath the tree, moving from his stupor only long enough to stretch his chubby legs or to grab a quick snack from his kitchen floor bowl. It all makes for a nice, cozy feeling.

Perhaps the lights are gaudy, just plastic, commercial reminders that we should have Christmas cheer, but we don’t feel as cynical as that.

My wife and I are sentimental about such things; we see the years slipping by and our kids grown and much of the magic of the Christmas season drained off by the endless television babble and radio sales pitches. We like to be home on nights like these, and despite the fact that we’d easily lose one of those neighborhood yard display contests that seem so popular these days, we enjoy the conservative approach we’ve taken toward Christmas decoration again this year. Where others enjoy lighted rooftop sleighs and inflatable elves and flashing Vegas-like tube lights, we stick mostly with evergreen wreaths and red bows. Our concession to modernism may be the pair of antlered white-lighted deer that pretend to graze near our front sidewalk.

When I was perhaps 8 or 9, my dad brought a plastic Santa Claus home. Our jolly old St. Nick was one of those hard plastic, cheery-faced gentlemen, and he was promptly propped up in our yard with a 40-watt light bulb snugly nestled near his black-booted heels. I thought we were rich to have such grand ornamentation, for in those days we decorated a tree, but nothing else around our place. It had always been a secret desire of mine that we, too, could join those whose power meters spun in happy anticipation of Christmas, that perhaps we could even run a string of colorful lights along our gutters or up our antenna mast. But Santa remained our solitary yard decoration for years, doomed to an otherwise boring life in storage along our basement stairs for the other 11 months of the year.

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