During a Christmas Season several years back, I read a column by USA Today writer Craig Wilson…who always has a unique, thoughtful take on even the most take-for-granted aspects of life.
The article is not just about the emotion of this time of year, but also about how the simplest of decorations can create the most profound feelings in all of us. I shared this on the site a year ago…but once again I’d like to share it…in its entirety:
Every December, a neighbor of ours opens his dining room shutters and lets in the world.
A floor-to-ceiling tree, laden with ornaments and white lights, fills the bay window. Underneath it is spread an assortment of antique toys. Original Raggedy Ann books, a model train engine from the Pennsylvania Railroad, a fire truck and an assortment of old stuffed animals. An elephant. A bear. A well-loved floppy-eared rabbit sporting a winter sweater and seated in a wicker sleigh, ready to glide.
The window, which is right on the sidewalk and perfect for viewing, has become a holiday tradition in the neighborhood. Like many, I make a detour on my nightly dog walk just to pass by.
I know there will come a Christmas when the display won’t be there, but until then, I happily take in the annual offering, just as I used to take in the mesmerizing holiday windows years ago at Sibley’s department store in Rochester, N.Y.
The magic of our neighborhood window, however, is that there’s nothing commercial about it. My neighbor offers up the display every year purely for the joy it might give a passerby, not to make a sale or hype a product.
It’s perhaps the simplest of Christmas gifts, which also makes it the best.
When I was walking Maggie the other night, I watched as a young mother and father pointed out the various toys to their daughter. She was maybe 3 or 4 and in her father’s arms. From the look on her face, you’d have thought she was in another world. Maybe she was.
And then the trio strolled away, happy perhaps in the belief that they’d just had one of the most pleasant and innocent experiences of their hectic holiday. A serendipity of the season.
When I was growing up in the country, Christmas displays like my neighbor’s window were not abundant.
But I remember being impressed that someone would take the time and effort to hang, say, a single strand of multicolored lights around their barn door. Or wrap a lamp pole with lights, aglow at the end of the lane. A lonely beacon in the night.
My dad did the same.
Christmas after Christmas, he would run the world’s longest extension cord across the snow-covered front yard, down to a tiny fir tree that proudly stood sentinel by the side of the road.
He covered the tree with what seemed like thousands of lights, and every night at 5, he turned them on with all the flourish of lighting the tree at Rockefeller Center.
I’ve often wondered what people thought as they drove down this country road, in the middle of nowhere, and came upon a solitary tree glowing in the December darkness.
Maybe they thought it was the prettiest thing they ever saw. Maybe they saw it as a gift.
Maybe they realized someone was just sharing his joy. Nothing to sell. No agenda in mind. Something done just for the joy of it. Like my neighbor’s magical window.
And maybe that’s what it’s all about.
Sometimes, the simplest of decorations are indeed the most moving. And memorable. Ones designed and executed purely from the heart. Not ones just to keep up appearances or with the neighbors.
I revisit this column each and every Christmas, as I do local decorations similar to the ones Craig wrote of. And my wife and I try to warm the hearts of our passers-by with decorations more generated from the spirit of the Season…than from and for the electric company.
The simplest of decorations…can generate the most power.