The neighborhood where we live is very festive. Many of our neighbors have Christmas lights lining their houses, white and colored bulbs that twinkle in the night. Huge inflatable holiday characters reign over the lawns, and reindeer made of white lights stand sentry by front doors. There are red bows on porch posts and huge colored ornaments in the bare branches of the trees.
And then there is our house. In our dark yard is a diminutive flag with a silkscreened snowman on it, which is utterly invisible by night, even with the porch light on. Have I forgotten anything? Oh, yes, the Halloween pumpkins, which are still on our front walk two months later. “We’re the lame house on the block,” my husband observed one evening, as we pulled into our driveway.
I’d like to use my newborn as an excuse for our lack of overt holiday spirit, but the fact is that we’ve never decorated the outside of our house. That snowman flag is an improvement on previous years. This is not for lack of Christmas cheer but for lack of, well, time. Decorating the inside of the house is my first priority. The outside … just never really gets done.
I realize here that I could easily slide into feelings of inadequacy and petty jealousy. That is a real danger when your neighbors’ homes look like floats from the Disneyland Electrical Parade and your home looks like the dwelling of Ebenezer Scrooge.
But actually, it occurred to me the other day that that’s entirely the wrong response. The fact is, my neighbors are giving me a gift. After all, when you decorate the outside of your house, you rarely see it yourself. It is really meant for others. If their visible Christmas cheer becomes obscured by my own insecurities, well, that’s a huge loss.
So I’m enjoying the lights and the reindeer and the bows and the inflatable Santa that descends into his inflatable chimney. Maybe one year, with a little more advance planning, my husband and I will return the gift and string up some lights. We even have the perfect lawn ornaments: a wooden Santa in a sleigh and eight wooden reindeer, which my dad and HIS dad painted in the 1950s and which are still in pristine condition. For years, they have been keeping a low profile up in the rafters of our garage. One of these Christmases, we’ll rescue them from obscurity and reintroduce them to the world. I look forward to that time.
And for today, I have one major goal on my To-Do list: Chuck the pumpkins.