Displaying the Christmas Uglies

Christmas is over.  Done.  Adios. I hate to be the bearer of bad news.  January 5th was the twelfth day of Christmas.  The Epiphany.  The church celebration to commemorate the Three Kings arriving to Jesus’ crib to deliver their gifts.

I love the idea of Twelfth night.  Knowing that the Savior of the Universe had to wait a couple of weeks to get his gifts makes me feel a lot better about any belated birthday cards I have to send throughout the year.  Call it the Holy Grace Period.

The Holidays came to a close rather quickly at our house.  On January 1st, our house looked like the Enron office after Arthur Andersen had cleaned up all the old files.  There were no traces of Christmas left inside, save for the extra ten pounds I had gained between Halloween and December 31st in an attempt to start the new year “treat free” in our pantry.  The only thing left is an inedible waxy chocolate Santa that will only be eaten in the event I become diabetic and need a kicker of insulin to keep from going into a coma.

The outside is a different story.  Our house is still wrapped in Christmas wire.  Not Christmas lights.

Christmas wire.

Don’t get me wrong.  The lights are there.  In fact, if you squint your eyes and sing “Here Comes Santa Clause”, you can see the roof lined with large red bulbs, white icicle lights hanging from the eaves, and the bushes and trees wrapped in white splendor.  I may be biased, but it is one of the most tasteful displays I’ve ever done.  Very symmetrical.

But Gabby won’t let me turn them on. Even starry-eyed pleas from the kids aren’t enough.  Christmas is over.   She doesn’t want us to be “those people.”

My grandfather was one of “those people.”  Legend has it that on December 27th, the lights on his house became “Independence Lights” and he told all the neighbors he was just getting a jump on the July 4th festivities.  A permanent fireworks display.  This is believable, since he was also the guy in the neighborhood that got so sick of cutting the grass one summer that he just dumped gasoline on the whole yard and set it on fire.

One man’s lazy is another man’s efficient, I guess.

But I have to hand it to Gabby.  While she holds fast on keeping our roof line free of Christmas cheer in the new year, she permits the annual “Christmas Uglies” to be hung with pride.

“What are the ‘Christmas Uglies?’” you ask.

Christmas Uglies are those God-awful Holiday decorations that should never see the light of day.  This could be stuff you made when you were a kid.  Maybe the stuff that exists in the time period somewhere between “Antique” and “Retro”.  Gifts from ancient aunts who likely bought the décor as a joke, just to spite you.

We have a number of notable Christmas Uglies.

The first is a candle holder that we made at one of those do-it-yourself ceramics places at our niece’s birthday party.  Gabby and I once took a pottery class together, and the majority of our items ended up on what our teacher termed the “Shelf of Shame.”  So, with a renewed sense of purpose and an eye for redemption, we worked together to create our masterpiece.  The kids had all finished their projects, eaten cake, watched the birthday girl unwrap gifts, and made contributions to their college savings plan.  Meanwhile, we worked until they literally had to kick us out.  The result is a cracked, Technicolor eyesore that is either too big or too small for any standard sized candle.  Still, it holds memories of our love, as well as a load of toxic paint, so we display it proudly.

Next is something we call the “Mistle-Toes”.  It is a maroon felt bag, tied with a sprig of mistletoe.  Protruding from the bag are two creepy, grayish-pink rubber gnome feet that look like a Hobbit was trying to escape from a mobster's sack before he got whacked.  I hang it proudly over the doorway, though surprisingly, it has never bought me a single kiss.

The final Ugly is an ornament I received from a coworker fourteen years ago.  She was a regular Martha Stewart, and made gifts for each of us every year.  The decoration is a glass ball the size of a newborn’s noggin.  It has been hand-painted on one side with a poinsettia flower.  On the other side is painted the WorldCom logo.

* Gabby, showing her love for the Christmas Ugly

Yes, I said WorldCom.  Nothing says Happy Holidays like the logo of one of the largest corporate frauds in the history of our nation.

I once worked for WorldCom as a corporate trainer.  Though, I always make sure to tell folks that I was not responsible for ethics training.  I did, however, have my picture taken with the CEO, Bernie Ebbers, who is now spending the rest of his life in prison.

Which reminds me, I forgot to send him a card.  Thank goodness for the Holy Grace Period.

The once clear-as-a-bell glass ornament has been clouded by years of fingerprints, smudged paint, and a felony conviction.  Still, it means something to me.  I’m not sure why I like it so much.  It doesn’t make too much sense, really.  I’m embarrassed to have the company name on my resume, yet I love the decoration on the tree.

Each year, there is the Christmas debate as to where to hang it.  If I am the one who comes across it in the box of breakables, I gingerly place it in a prominent spot, only to find it slowly move toward the back of the tree as Jesus’ birth nears.  I think Gabby just wants to make sure it’s out of the line of sight of our under-the-tree nativity scene before Jesus finally shows on the 25th.

Might upset the baby.

But each year it lives on.  It’s a reminder of bad choices.   A glimpse of reality.  Our warts on display, so to speak.  Because the most wonderful time of the year is no time to start feigning perfection.  Where is the fun in that?  Where is the authenticity?  If we can’t accept who we are, how can we ever expect to serve others without judgment?

So each year brings another Christmas miracle.  Eight years of Christmas with Gabby.  Eight opportunities for her to “accidentally” drop the Christmas Ugly and shatter it into pieces like the corporation it represents.

But each year, I watch her carefully wrap it in layers of bubble wrap, along with some of our most cherished decorations.  Out of respect.  Respect for me.  Respect for imperfection.  Respect for those who aren’t afraid to let it all hang out.

Because she doesn’t want to be one of “those people.”