Roger Barbee: We are all gifted

Roger Barbee

The Christmas decorations came out from storage this week. Box upon box was first stacked in the screened porch after being moved from the corn crib storage room, but soon enough each was placed about the house according to the room its contents would decorate.

If I had not known better, I would have thought we were moving because of the marked boxes sitting on chairs, tables, or the floors. Their appearance certainly supported the adage that “curiosity killed the cat” because all six cats fully inspected each box by smelling, climbing over, and even napping on. However, the contents of each were safe because Mary Ann had stored them well last January. Now, I admit to not being one who is much interested in decorating for Christmas, or any holiday for that matter. I think it is a fine tradition for those who enjoy it, and I do admire and appreciate the artistry involved. Each night upon going to bed, I marvel at the well-lit and fully decorated house on The Pike that I can see by looking across the large pasture. The owners evidently enjoy doing the work, and I enjoy the result of their labor.

However, I live with a woman who, while not actually enjoying the work, loves the result of holiday decorating. Thus, out come the boxes this time of the year, but I am so glad that she waits until after Thanksgiving decorations are removed to put up the Christmas ones. And she decorates around our normal decor — nothing is temporarily removed for a seasonal decoration. Thus, the brass dove that graces the mantel seems, at least to me, to add a special touch to the green garland that decorates it for Christmas. Before you conclude that I am a total Scrooge, let me explain that I help by handing the smaller decorations to Mary Ann as she hangs each. That way she does not have to step up and down a ladder, I contribute, and I happen to enjoy looking at each ornament as I remove it from its box. Each has its history and memory.

While I don’t remember every Christmas, some hold memories for me for whatever reason. As a small child, I remember our mother taking us in a friend’s car to see “the blue house.” As its name implies, it was a large, country house wrapped in blue lights. For my young eyes, it was a marvel. I also remember one Christmas from first grade when we drew names for presents. Mike Duncan, who had my name, gave me a striped polo shirt. While all the other kids in Mrs. Meechem’s room played with a toy, I looked sadly at that awful shirt. So, as I recently handed Mary Ann ornaments from a box, I am reminded of past people or events by each ornament.

Mary Ann and I have ornaments that we had before our marriage, and ones we share. As I hand Mary Ann the crocheted Santa with his gift bag, I remember the student who gave it to me in 1978.

Pulling out another ornament, I wonder which child made the snowflake out of popsicle sticks and covered it with glitter. I turn it over to see the name and date. The fat cardinal with an angel riding it is a reminder of an early Christmas shared with Mary Ann. The white lamb, a gift to us from granddaughters Lucinda and Ann, brightens one corner of the window garland.

Across another window of the family room hang small glass ornaments that Mary Ann and her son Chris painted one Christmas over 30 years ago, then baked in the oven.

Nick, one of our sons, made us a cut-out of our beloved Persian cat Piggy. It hangs on a garland every year as do the nine ginger bread people with each grandchild’s name neatly written on one by daughter Kate. Sitting on the old stove, out of cat reach, is a lace Christmas tree made by Mary Ann’s grandmother, and on the ancestor’s table in the dining room sits a small angel holding a candle that, long ago, would light. In the den stands the paper Santa made by my English artist friend Bill Bird. It has decorated each Christmas since 2000.

Soon, however, my small contribution to decorating for this season is over, and I am left to return to other tasks. But, as I leave the family room, I feel better for I now have a better understanding of how Jim and Della, the characters in O. Henry’s short story, “The Gift of the Magi,” felt– no matter our circumstances, we are all gifted.

Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at red-hill@shentel.net.