Growing up Christmas in my house meant a couple of long standing traditions.
1. Eating a pre-dinner before going to my grandmothers where you would wonder just who would put raisins in that dish? Is she secretly Lane's mother from Better Off Dead? Thank God Christmas doesn't have a french theme.
2. Holiday tacky light competition. Ground rules: pit the worst house you can find in our neighborhood against any other found during the holiday season. Commense with a battle of all out tacky tackiness.
Winner got bragging rights for the whole next year plus first dibs at not having to help my dad put up the lights in the attic.
We had favorite neighborhoods, the trailer park near Tiny Town (which got it's own award being a entire yard covered in miniatures vignettes like baby dolls dressed like cow girls standing next to Baby Jesus. Bizarre? Yes-o-Yes.
In our own neighborhood, we lived across the street from a church (not one I attended may I add). The parsonage looked like a scene from the Crucifixion, with a cross outlined onerously in bright red lights next a teddy bear jumping out of a present.
Also bizarre and a mixed message on the meaning of Christmas.
But hands down the best and almost the winner year after year was a neighborhood on the way to Pelzer and Belton-Honea Path, SC that my dad frequented as a Bellsouth lineman.
The neighborhood was near a family favorite place to eat, Black's fish camp if that tells you the calibre of addresses. The neighborhood hosted a street in which the homeowners blocked off the entrance with their cars and then walked up and down the street covered in those big, nasty bright colored bulb lights. Yes, not only were the houses covered, the people were too. I still to the day wondered how they kept the lights lit? I'm thinking this had to be the catalyst for Corey Hart's "I wear my sunglasses at night."
As for our own house, while we didn't decorate the outside, but my mom had tons of Christmas decorations, usually with some stuffed animal decked out in some Dickensian outfit standing among a sea of fake plastic greenery. Brian and I almost destroyed her Nativity scene making the wise men square off with Mary in a fight to the death over who was going home with the myrrh. Every singe piece was chipped or broken, including a one-armed Baby Jesus
We would cut down our own tree each year at a nearby tree farm and every single year my dad would then have to tie the tree to the wall to keep it upright due to a crooked stump. The best year was when we unwittingly picked a tree with a live nest of hornets.
So it is with great joy that on the way home each night we take an extra bit of time looking at lights, driving around judging the best. We have a tie in the annual tackiest neighborhood light competition. This year's neighborhood winner is the tie between the battling homes with 17 inflatables including Santa in an outhouse vs the house with the schizophrenic lights covering every square inch timed to music. Ben has already asked to move to their street.
As I write this I am smiling remembering how much my Dad would have loved to know that Ben and Ian are carrying on his tradition. My dad would have been 65 today and I can't help but think that he will somehow lead us to the craziest house yet in the Triangle area before the season is over smiling the whole way.