The Place “Just Right”

The Santa Claus Parade and Festival of Lights have started the holiday season in my little town, and this is my weekly newspaper column dedicated in part to that tradition and my own traditions which are, if I do say so myself, a bit quirky:

The strains of holiday cheer fill the air. In my mind’s eye I can see the Christmas parade replete with bands in their regalia, floats full of red cheeked faces, drummers drumming, and the festive evening’s darkness cut by glowing lights. I imagine the jolly old elf punctuating the night air with “ho ho ho”; his lovely wife loyally by his side waving and smiling at the crowd. And I see the children full of hope as the magic of the holiday season begins in our fair town.

I see these things clearly. But this year I participate from the warmth of my home. The thought did cross my mind to leave the toasty confines of my little red chair in the corner of my living room, but it was fleeting. No one wanted to accompany me the half a block walk to the corner of my street to watch the annual parade and I did not want to bundle up and venture out on this cold cold night by myself. I noticed on Facebook the day after the parade that several of my friends tempted the cold and watched the parade, but their conclusion was the same—the parade was wonderful, but it was “freakin’” (a term I am convinced was coined by Regis Philbin) cold.

Nevertheless, I did participate in a way that has become somewhat of a tradition that I have donned since my kids have grown up and are no longer interested in standing out in the cold with me. I left my chair and the glow of the TV and climbed the stairs to my upstairs bathroom. From that vantage point I could see the fireworks that both noisily and colourfully ushered in the “most wonderful time of the year.” I corralled my youngest son to join me, and we gazed out the window together, warm and cozy in that little utilitarian room. He got a little agitated at one point, wanting to get back to whatever he was doing before I asked him to join me, but I prevailed upon him with that most poignant of tools a mother has in her arsenal—guilt—so he stayed until the bitter end. Which was not bitter at all.

From our perch on the bathroom counter we had a view most others could not replicate. There was no straining of necks, no chill up our spines, no jockeying for position in the crowd. We could just enjoy the display and hear the oohs and awes of the crowd a mere few blocks away. I actually oohed and awed a few times just for good measure and ironic pleasure—but to be honest, there were some undeniable wows in the display. It was a fitting way to begin the season. I have quietly been introducing a few decorations into my home décor—a “real” evergreen wreath on the front door, a festive planter on my coffee table, some red and green ribbon waiting patiently to festoon its way through the house.

As I write this there is freshly fallen snow outside, forming crests on our bushes and adding newness to our surroundings. According to the weather men and women we are in for a November week that rivals mid-winter. And that is okay. We have to make the transition and if it is early this year, so be it. I will be taking on decorating with fervour in the next couple of weeks, my motto being “if it takes a day or so to put up and a day or so to take down, I need to enjoy it for a few weeks”. I am someone who is no stranger to hard work (and don’t let anyone tell you that decorating is not hard work) but I like the fruit of my labours to last for a while.

This year, as in others, I will start out determined to simplify Christmas, and get it down to an art. But Christmas is not an art. It is not perfect. I have come to the conclusion that it is a craft; one that is original every year yet has aspects of its forebears. A favourite little ditty that I love and brings to mind all that is simple and good (and unattainable) follows. It is called “Simple Gifts” and is attributed as an American Shaker hymn. On the surface it sums up how I would like life to be in general, and Christmas in particular: “ ‘Tis the gift to be simple, /‘Tis the gift to be free/‘Tis the gift to come down/Where we ought to be/And when we find ourselves/In the place just right, /Twill be in the valley/Of love and delight……………..”

Here is hoping that in this Christmas season, we all land “in the place just right.”

Where is your Christmas “place just right”?

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16 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I always set out to keep things simple for Christmas but that never really happens. Your words are so true. “… Christmas is not an art. It is not perfect. I have come to the conclusion that it is a craft; one that is original every year yet has aspects of its forebears.”

    • it is so hard to keep things simple–by its very nature simplicity should be simple–but it isn’t

  2. Loved your column. Christmas place just right is anywhere my family is. I think you carry it with you.

  3. I love that you guilted your son into watching with you. I have to do that with my boys too LOL. My “place just right” would be relaxing at home watching old Christmas movies with my family after a traditional Christmas dinner. However, most years involve a lot of travelling and/or entertaining and don’t involve as much relaxing as I would like. That’s what happens nowadays when families live so far away from each other.

    • relax–what a wonderful word–we really should work more of that into our holiday season–hey–wish I had been in TO with you last weekend–what a blast for people like us!

      • Oh LouAnn, I wish you had been there too. It was a book lover’s dream come true!!! I am going to post some pictures tonight if all goes well. You should try to come next year :).

      • that would be wonderful! awaiting your pics …………….

      • 🙂

  4. My place that is right at Christmas is sitting at night..with tree lights on, and just looking at them… sometimes with Christmas music . When there are unwrapped presents underneath, it’s even more enjoyable.. Diane

  5. Fitting post for me now that I’ve decided to have Christmas at the nursing home. Love the image of you and your son watching the fireworks from the warmth of the house!

  6. Oh what a beautiful piece you’ve written, Lou. I can see you and your son looking out that bathroom window enjoying the view and the season. Your writing made me feel warm and Christmas-like–thank you.

    For some reason, this year feels better to me–more seasonal and Christmasy and I’m so happy for that. It’s been awhile. My perfect place? With my family–that includes my hubby and pups of course and my Mom and sisters and their families, just being together. Just being. Safe. Warm and loved. It doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

    P.S. (I’m with you–I’m reading to decorate too!)

    • you are always so encouraging — I am glad that you have got your “Christmas” back and I so agree with your definition of the perfect place– with the ones you love, safe and warm. I have an addition that both of us can relate to–loving memories of those who have gone ahead of us……..

  7. I hope it’s not to freakin cold. So early in the season. Stay warm, enjoy some hot chocolate, Christmas movies, and read some good books. That’s my holiday plan.

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