Mack Williams: Decorative memory

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 31, 2022

Like the occurrence of an annual meteor shower, not long ago the Earth passed through that part of its orbit where it encountered Christmas again. But since the whole solar system is constantly traveling 4.5 trillion miles a year, next year’s Christmas encounter will be 4.5 trillion miles from where we are now(same place in the orbit, though) This kind of adds a different perspective to the phrase: “Walk a mile in my shoes,” (with more than just you and your shoes being in motion).
Once again, the yards and houses of those who love to decorate looked appropriately festive. Some were simple. Some were elaborate. Each reflected its decorator’s pocketbook and creativity, with no fault to be found in either.
No matter what time of year, a lit candle in a window for a service member abroad, or even just some bare, stark bulb on a front porch can cause someone to recall their memories of when those windows, porches, and yards were as “decked” as the halls!
The following are some of the remembered outdoor decorations of my most recent Christmas:
One older house had a “wrap-around” porch strung with a simple string of red, green, and blue bulbs. This string of lights followed each “bend” of the old porch, casting multiple colors and multiple shadows behind old porch rockers, columns, and empty flower pots. The colors and shadows seemed to “photo doctor” areas of paint-chipped wood, along with other blemishes from termite or decay.
The Seasonal Light Show” in a local park had its walking path decorated with themed electrical displays set up by various community organizations. Driving past after sunset, I was struck by what looked like a decorative, zig-zag line.
And since the park rests on a gently rising hill, someone gazing up from the bottom of that hill would see what resembled a “many-storied” decoration, narrowing at the top like a giant Christmas tree! When I viewed it from that vantage, I thought of one of those giant “Singing Christmas Trees” which some choral organizations put together. Thank the Lord I’ve never had to sing in one of these, especially in the “tree’s” nether regions! Perched there, I would, no doubt have an even greater appreciation of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”(1958 ).
I drove past some houses which in past years had been covered with Christmas decorations, but which were now, undecorated and dark inside. There wasn’t even an indoor picture-window Christmas tree to light up both living room and front yard. Surprisingly, the present darkness served as a “contrasting” reminder of past Seasonal splendor there.
Another house in that same vein once had a bright, electrically light Christmas wreath placed about half-way up its massive chimney. But that house is now vacant, the wreath gone, no outside glow nor warmth from the hearth within.
And finally, there was an undecorated house within some woods by which I drove one evening. There were no outside Christmas decorations; and from what I could see, there were none within. But the house was inhabited, for in a window square shewn a homogenous, low, beige light. Even though the light was weak and diffuse, it was enough to turn an unlit Christmas wreath hanging in that window into a silhouette, a silhouette of a Christmas wreath, of course. The low light spread outside, turning the intervening pine trees into silhouettes of Christmas trees.
Just as some children love the “hands-on” portion of a museum, here was my memory’s chance to be “mind-on!” Upon those bare silhouettes my memory placed excerpts of the lights and decorations from my approximately seven decades of Christmases.

My memories had become decoration, too.

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