Despite appearances, Ebenezer doesn’t live here

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 17, 2011

You might have read in this space about a “Bah Humbug” coffee mug in our office. It belongs to me, a gift from a friend last Christmas.

At first, I didn’t know how to take it. But the gift giver was thinking “Charles Dickens,” not “You are such a Scrooge,” or at least she said she was.

I’ve found myself reaching for that cup a lot this season. It’s not the giving, a la Ebenezer, that I particularly want to avoid, but the trappings.

As always, decorating was like a trip down memory lane. Unpacking the boxes reminded me of Christmases past, and what was fashionable or interesting to me at different periods of our lives.

My friend Emilie decorated in a big way, and I see reminders of days spent shopping under her influence.

There are glass ornaments from a fabulous winter vacation in Germany. Fruit that I used on a restaurant tree. Folk art decorations. A collection of chef Santas. Angels galore.

In total, it seems ridiculous and overwhelming. It is.

This year, my decorations could best be described as minimalist. There is a small, Charlie Brown tree which we’ve struggled to keep standing straight; white lights; garland and some wreaths. It smells like Christmas.

I am reminded of the year Mary Helen put only lights and candy bars on her tree. By the time Christmas passed, John had been a model husband and “packed away” the delicious decorations.

And the year that Gwen used live wreaths and a live tree, adorned only with white lights and a red ribbon. When Christmas was over, she just piled all of her decorations by the road while the rest of us cringed at the thought of all those lovely, hand-tied bows going to waste.

Yet each of them had found ways to focus on the parts of Christmas that really mattered. By keeping the decorating effort to a minimum, they had time to entertain friends and spend time with their families.

I’ve followed their good examples this year. With the help of James Taylor crooning Christmas music from my iPod, I got enough decorations out to avoid being kicked out of the neighborhood. The weekend I normally would have spent being consumed by that effort was instead spent having fun with two of my favorite playmates, Christopher and Sarah. They didn’t seem disappointed that I didn’t have a tree up, yet they were greatly entertained by driving through town to look at the hard work others had done decorating their yards and homes. The three of us appreciate your efforts, truly we do.

But we’ll remember bowling, seeing the Andalusia Ballet’s Messiah, and A Christmas Memory at the Shakespeare Festival as part of our fun this year.

It may look like Ebenezer lives at my house, but only because this “Scrooge” had other priorities this year.