My wife, Jean, loves decorating for Christmas — maybe a little too much.
If you were to step into our garage, you’d notice about 30 boxes and plastic bins up in the rafters. They’re filled with Christmas decorations — for outside, inside, downstairs and upstairs, accumulated over 33 years.
White lights and multicolored lights, small and large trees, ornaments, garlands, ribbons, candles, little villages, artificial snow, a train set, holiday pillows, a creche and Nativity figurines.
But wait — there’s more!
Each Thanksgiving weekend it’s my job to pull all the decorations down and haul them into the house. Jean decorates with an elegant touch and flair. I’m always amazed at how beautiful everything looks when it’s done.
Jean decorates — that’s the operative phrase.
If I’m honest, “decking the halls” is just not my thing. Sure, I like the way it looks and enjoy sitting each early morning in the glow of the living room lights while sipping my coffee and prepping for my radio show and other daily responsibilities.
But the idea of putting it all up is a painful proposition to me.
Nevertheless, because Jean was working hard all weekend, I reluctantly offered to help hang some icicles on the tree. It wasn’t as if I had been just sitting around watching her work — I was tackling my own set of chores. But my offer was reluctant. I kind of cringed inside when she accepted it.
Like any typical guy, though, I jumped into the job. The task was completed within an hour. We both stood back and admired the work.
“I really enjoyed that,” Jean said to me. “I loved the chance to just talk with you. We haven’t done that in a long time.”
Her simple observation put a lump in my throat.
Jean was right. Like most families, we’ve been running from task to task these last few months. We have one boy in college and another in his senior year of high school.
Time is passing quickly. Too quickly, like sand through an hourglass. Navigating the pandemic and all of the upside-down and inside-out ways of 2020 has been exhausting.
It’s been rare to just sit and talk, or even casually converse while doing something fun together.
I thought I was just hanging some ornaments on a tree, helping my wife check another “to do” off her list.
According to Jean, though, we were spending an intimate hour together. Not that type of intimacy, but deep and meaningful conversation. It was a visit that fed her soul. And now looking back, it fed mine as well.
It was the famed children’s author, Theodor Seuss Geisel (better known by his pen name of Dr. Seuss) who once observed: “You never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
Even in the midst of this terrible pandemic, the holiday season is already underway. It might look different in some ways this year, but I suspect it’ll still go just as quickly as it always does. Be aware that time is finite and fleeting. It’s easy to find the extraordinary within the ordinary, because that’s what life is made up of — mundane moments that become special only when you look back and in hindsight reflect on their significance.
Don’t miss the value of the simple things, whether it’s decorating a tree or washing the dishes. There’s a sacredness in the simple, especially when you’re doing a task with the people you love.
I’m still not a big fan of hanging ornaments or stringing lights. But I’m going to see these tasks a little differently from here on out.