On this Christmas Eve I thought I'd rerun a couple of favorite posts from the past. This one was from December 4, 2010.
Last night I felt like the chief elf running Santa's workshop. Me and my fellow elves were able to provide a nice Christmas surprise to my mom. I was debating whether to write about this, but it's a nice story...at least for us...and you might enjoy it.
My dad was a dedicated Christmas decorator. Every year he put in countless hours getting out all the Christmas decor and putting it together throughout the house. Because of physical limitations my mom wasn't able to help him much, so putting it together and taking it apart pretty much fell to him.
In September, 2009 he passed away and when the Christmas season started just two months later nobody wanted to go and decorate the house. It was just too difficult, so last year the house went largely bare of the usual Christmas decor.
This year, at the prompting of my wife who knew Christmas decorations would be very meaningful to mom, we decided to do something about it. Because of other schedules Friday night was the only time I could get everyone together, and that would work out well because mom was going to be gone to her small group meeting. She has a full-time caregiver who lives with her, so I asked her to call me the moment mom left the house. We were parked nearby and as soon as we got the call we all swooped in and started the mad decoration frenzy.
My wife and I were there, and my son joined us when he got off from work. My sister, her husband, and two daughters also were there, and together the seven of us got to work. I climbed the ladder in the garage and started handing down stuff to the others and everyone took on a project or two. We had to put put up the tree, put together a Nativity set, a Dickens village, unbox and set-up a number of different displays and objects d'art. Not knowing where dad had put everything after his last Christmas in 2008 complicated things a bit. We still haven't found a couple of things.
It wasn't easy. My dad's artificial tree was an older model that required the individual installation of each and every branch. It took several of us quite awhile to get that thing together (my tree at home is 7' tall, comes in four pieces and goes together in about two minutes). Then we had to find the decorations for the tree, first and foremost the lights. I found bags of Christmas lights, most of them dead or half-working before finally stumbling on the two bags that had the lights he used on the tree. My son undid the knots and tangles, engineered the wiring, and we lit the tree.
From the outside of the house you couldn't tell anything had been done, except for one thing. My dad had a lighted Angel Gabriel that he used to put on the front lawn each year. Gabriel was named Gabriel Schwartz by their Jewish neighbor, and earlier that day the neighbor had commented to me that he missed seeing Gabriel Schwartz in front of the house.
My brother-in-law fixed that, putting him together and wiring up the timer.
When mom drove up, feeling sad about Christmas and having just talked to her friends about how much she missed having the house decorated, there was old Gabriel Schwartz shining on the front lawn.
She was shocked to see him and couldn't understand how he got there, and then walked into the house to see the rest of the work. My wife and I were the only ones who could stay until she got there after 10pm and the reaction was just as I expected - a flood of tears. I was fighting them too, because the house looked much like it had before we lost dad.
We worked pretty hard and scrambled to get it all done, but it was worth the effort. The family did itself proud.
And as I looked back at the photo of the tree I realized that Dad was watching us all along.