Thursday, December 24, 2009

Keeping Santa Fey

I've admitted before, and so many times, that I lack a few of the genes others in my tribe take for granted. I lack the Garland gene, having seen only two of her films in their entirety. I lack the Halloween gene, just can't get excited about dressing up. And I CERTAINLY lack the fashion gene and the shopping gene.

In addition to the above, I lack the decorating gene. I've been in my condo for a full decade, and the place still needs a coat of paint. Or three. And it's still a mishmash of old and new, with my grandmother's favorite rocker sitting next to the patio furniture from my apt in California. Whatever. I'm the one living here, and I don't give two hoots what you think.

When I returned from my L.A. Holiday trip, I was determined to decorate my condo with all my Christmas baubles, in hopes of jump-starting the holiday. While I usually do some decorating for Christmas, I have been known to skip the whole thing (I did so last year; I was traveling too much). I've skipped the Christmas tree thing only two or three times in the past, mostly when I was in grad school and was spending the hols with the folks.

But this year, there was to be a tree. And full decoration of the condo. This is a bigger task than you may imagine. All my decorations are stashed in the basement, three steep flights away, in four boxes of varying size and shape. It requires at least two, and sometimes more, trips to the basement to haul all my decorations into the apt. Of course, once the boxes are emptied of their goodies, they must be returned to their living quarters in the basement, as there is no room to store them in my living space. Then, when the inevitably depressing day comes to UNdecorate, I have to repeat the process in reverse.

My holiday decorating confirms that I have no sense of style. I usually pick out the tree in about 5 minutes, and don't give much thought to which is the "bad side." This year, I think I've got a pretty good one, though it's listing just a bit. I was lucky to have snagged the thing a few days before we were hit with the Big Snow Storm, which would have prevented my getting out to get a tree, since my car was buried:

But back to the tree. I've also inadvertently placed the lights in an off-balance way, so that only the lower half of the tree is blinking. The top half has all the steady lights; when the switch is flicked, it kind of looks like the tree is dropping its pants and pulling them back up, over and over again.

As for tree decorations, again, I lack the gene. My buddies in Los Angeles, who host our annual Tree Trimming Event every year, have a full box of sentimental, very personal ornaments, in addition to many, many boxes of multi-colored balls. But me, I have only a handful of ornaments I would classify as "personal." There's a charming little elephant, given to me by one of the children I worked with when I played the Panto Dame in New York. The show was about the first elephant in America:

The elephant's on the left, wise-ass. I've also got a couple of candy canes dressed up as reindeer, which were given to me by my auto mechanic. (Note: if your mechanic sees you often enough to give you Christmas decorations, it's time to get a new car.) But my favorite of the "personal" ornaments is the pickle, which was given to me by a British director who guided me through a show at Arena Stage a while back. The Christmas Pickle has significance to the Brits, I think it's good luck or something, but I now make sure it is the very first ornament to go on the tree, and the very last to be removed. I hope that's bringing me some luck.

Everything else on the tree is store-bought and looks it. Still, once the thing is decorated and lit, it looks pretty good. At least to me.

As for the rest of the place, I have some pretty schlocky decorations that I throw up onto the mantle ("throw up" being the operative phrase). This shot includes a Santa and three mice which were once part of a home-made centerpiece my mother concocted about 45 years ago. They aren't worth much, but are very important to me:

I still hang the stocking which I've had my entire life, though it now dangles above the mantle rather than below it. My grandmother knitted stockings for all us kids, and though the tradition of stuffing them with goodies went out long ago, I still put the thing up. Makes me feel close to her. I do have THAT gene.

I have a Santa from Costco who sits on my stereo speaker, surveying the room, and several candy cane-colored candles scattered about. But without a doubt, my favorite decoration is one I also found at Costco. I couldn't walk by it without snagging it for my collection.

This guy spends the holidays in my small entrance hall, right next to the bowl which holds my keys. I see it every time I enter or leave home, and it never fails to give me a chuckle. I'm missing a lot of the genes the rest of my tribe carry, but if you come to visit during the holidays, you will be greeted with this evidence that somebody bent lives here. This is a Santa who is clearly sure of Be honest, isn't this the gayest St. Nick you've ever seen?