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Jewell: Decorations and memories

dfox • Updated Dec 1, 2015 at 1:54 PM

But finally, my father gave in to his insistent children. The wreath was replaced with cedar garlands around the door, lit with those big old, non-blinking lights. Still, the decorations went up and came down in less than two weeks.

In the Southwest corner, we have neighbors who decorated their homes a week before Thanksgiving. And I mean decorate: Lights cover the house. Icicle lights hang from the eves; every tree is filled with pulsating lights of all shapes, sizes and color. Gigantic, glitzy packages are strewn on the yard. Reindeer silhouettes sparkle. Santa’s sleigh is on the roof with eight not-so-tiny reindeer. Rudolph with his nose so bright looks like he’s been on a binge. And unlimited Christmas characters are blown up at night and deflated in the morning. 

Hey, if folks enjoy this, and the kids get excited and laugh, I’m all for it. It’s just not my style.

I have one decoration besides the tree, a self-made “NOEL” sign laced with white lights I hang from the garage roof. Sunday, I drug it out, hung it on the hooks, ran the chord to the socket, and installed the timer so the lights come on after sunset and automatically turn off around 10:30 p.m.

Every year I hang my “NOEL” sign, I dwell on memories.

The decoration is, in my way, a tribute to the late Col. James Lynch. He was once my father-in-law. We spent a number of Christmases at his home in Paris, Tex.  For several Christmases, he would ask me to help him place his sign (with colored lights) on the roof of his front porch. I thought it was a beautiful and appropriate sign for celebrating Christmas. The good colonel had many great ideas, some of which I adopted. I think fondly of him when the sign goes up.

But the sign brings back another, not so pleasant memory. I wrote about it here almost eight years ago. For me, it is another one of those holiday items that should be repeated annually in the vein of watching Christmas comedy movies. 

Maureen had six of her friends over for Christmas dinner prepared by a chef. As she was setting the table and making other preparations in the kitchen, I began hanging my sign.

I was at the top of my stepladder when it fell. I grabbed the grating above the garage door, hanging there futilely yelling for Maureen with my arm intertwined with the “O” of the sign, unable to just fall without serious damage to my arm. 

Eventually, neighbors pulled into their driveway. I yelled. They came to help. After I calmed the dog, the neighbors helped me down. I felt like I was in “Christmas Vacation.”

But the night was not over.

Sarah and I went out for supper to nearby small restaurant. When we sat down at a table, I noticed three guys at the bar. As we were finishing our meal, two of the guys slammed the other one against the wall, and started pummeling him. 

I grabbed the biggest guy. The other two male diners helped me while two cooks corralled the other attacker.  The big guy and I spun into our table, knocking it over before he and I landed on the floor. The other diners and I held him until he calmed down. The cooks quelled the other assailant. The two attackers left quietly. 

On the way home, I directed Sarah not to tell her mother, explaining I would tell her later to keep from interrupting her party. Sarah nodded affirmative.

But when I parked the car, Sarah dashed into the house yelling to her mother in front of the caterer and her friends dressed to the nines amidst fine china, Christmas decorations, and haut cuisine, “Mom, Dad got in a fight in a bar.”

Perhaps I should change my “NOEL” sign to one like another neighbor hangs prominently on his roof every year: “Humbug.”

Jim Jewell, a retired Navy commander lives in San Diego but was raised in Lebanon. His book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems, is now available through Author House, Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. Jim’s email is jim@jimjewell.com.

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