I started writing this piece about three weeks ago, when the threat of coronavirus was still half a world away. Now, with shelter-in-place orders and the whole world tilted sideways, I’ve reconsidered if what I was writing was still relevant. I decided yes. Ultimately, this analysis of holiday decorations is really about controlling my immediate surroundings, as well as taking a more holistic, harmonious view of existence. And what is really more relevant right now?
I’m that kind of person who neurotically adheres to the idea of a place for everything and everything in its place – sometimes to a fault, I’ll admit. Holiday decorations in particular are strictly regimented in my world order. You know how sometimes you walk past someone’s house in early December, and you see pumpkins on the front step just below the freshly hung Christmas wreath? Or in late March, there could be a plastic snowman hanging out next to a yard flag decorated with chipper spring tulips, daffodils blooming all around? It happens in many houses for many reasons, so I’m not proclaiming judgement. More like marveling at my own neurosis, because in our house, it goes like this:
September through November, we have pumpkins of every shape, size, and color, inside and out. Most of them are from our garden, where they sprout and thrive from last year’s batch haphazardly thrown into the garden boxes. Because, oddly, there are some elements of life I’m just not regimented about at all. For Halloween week, we add some specific décor, which goes back away on November first. Then a few pilgrims and turkeys show up for the week of Thanksgiving. Then they retreat, I throw all the pumpkins into the garden (or have my kids do it if they need to burn off some steam), and Christmas arrives. On January first, I pack away Christmas and decorate with white lights, snowmen, pinecones, and a few “winter” evergreens. Then, finally, in March the whole place gets a break, a clean sweep until Easter week, when some rabbits and decorated eggs hop to it. And then nothing, until the whole process starts again with pumpkins in September.
Our house is smallish and, other than the pumpkins, my holiday mood-setters are smallish too, mostly antique, natural, or handmade. And they NEVER MEET. My Santa Clauses have never seen a jack-o-lantern, and the snowmen and Easter bunnies don’t socialize.
Except … that’s not entirely accurate. Out in the open, I would never mix them. But, most of these guys live in the front corner of my basement in their off seasons, residing there in perfect harmony. And even though I’m so particular about them not being together above ground, it brings me a certain kind of joy when I walk down to the basement and see them all there, a happy, mismatched greeting committee. My ragdoll snow girl sits next to the orange-faced friendly witch Claire requested at age six to balance out all the general scariness of Halloween. Behind these ladies, three ceramic jack-o-lanterns are happily lined up. If you look closely you can see that their smiles are really my kids’ names. A few Easter bunnies are nestled contentedly under the skinny, six-foot primitive Christmas/winter tree. Seeing all this holiday joy together in one place works its own kind of magic, a true reminder this different symbols are all really part of the same thing.
But there’s a time for togetherness and a time for separation, as we’re all so painfully aware right now. In these isolated days, we’re all searching and reaching for ways to control the small immediate details of daily existence. It’s helping me cope that I’ve always been this kind of organized. My mind can be so much more productive when my surroundings are in control. My holiday decoration regimen adds another layer, reminding me to be present in each season, to examine what each holiday represents, and what has changed or developed in our family and the world since the last time around. I think each season also comes with its own feeling of possibility, and at no time in my life has this perspective seemed more crucial than now, when I look forward to the next season with renewed hope for the rebalancing of the world.
About our Blogger:
Elizabeth Dougherty is a freelance writer in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Her blog, Plan Q, chronicles real, everyday experiences and viewpoints — funny, stressful, tearful, mundane — and how they all tie together to define our lives. She aims to make her readers laugh, cry, feel, think, and wonder. That’s what writing and reading do for her, and if she can pass on any of that, then all the twists and turns that whip her right past Plans A through P and land her at Plan Q are more than worth it! Visit Plan Q at www.elizabethdoughertyfreelancewriting.wordpress.com or connect with her on Facebook.