That was in keeping with the atmosphere at the old Wit’s End, on a small private lake near Howell, Mi. (home of the Michigan Militia) and populated primarily by bubbas. Then we moved. Now the sign that reads Wit’s End is here on the porch in sunny St. Petersburg where we bought this bungalow in the Historic Old Northeast. Long before the NYTimes decided this was one of THE great neighborhoods I thought it was a pretty cool place with all of the charm of life on the Bay, near downtown museums, pier and restaurants and still, a friendly little community onto itself. Here, where the streets are of old brick pavers, the curbs granite and the live oaks a hundred years old we take neighborhood pride seriously. We have an association, a neighborhood news publication, giant block parties for Halloween and community yoga classes at the Sunken Gardens, Florida’s oldest real-deal tourist attraction. It’s also a diverse and open-minded neighborhood: the gay guys on Desperate Housewives would find their water fountain welcome here.
The people who live here are active in local business and community affairs. Family Village, the homeless family shelter, is one place that gets strong support from the neighborhood association. This is all a convoluted explanation of how I volunteered to open my home to a thousand people the second weekend in December for the annual Candlelight Tour. Actually, I don’t remember for sure how it happened but it did and now I’m down here, the week before Halloween, putting up Christmas trees. What can I say?
I shipped most all of my Christmas past down here in boxes and I’ve spent a fair amount of time now repairing the damage done by the USPS. I KNOW it was that passive-aggressive witch at the Chicago main; Rich and I saw her throw one box 8 feet to a bin after I asked if I could borrow a marker to write fragile on it.
Super Glue, in any permutation, is designed to adhere one thing and one thing only: skin. I spent a couple hours monkeying around with my Erzgebirge candle pyramid that arrived in pieces, only to end up with three fingers glued fast together with little wooden lambs hanging off the tips.
I took a break from peeling the skin off my digits and the cute Russian (Abby’s guy) and I took on the exterior lights. With outside lights, there are three options: 1) Over-the-top Clark Griswold, now including giant inflatables, 2) a 4,000.00 professional job where all landscaping is sacrificed but you do get lights at the very top of those palms, or 3) Walmart cheap and wholly inadequate with more extension cords and plugs than lights and, oh yes, one half of each light string is already burned out. This process was made more complicated by Misha’s very literal grasp of English. Words like “tacky”, “all cockamamie on the peak”, “f-ing tangled mess of cowpie!” and “screw it!” leave him confused but perfectly willing to work for an hour- or until I come screaming out of the house- drilling screws into the new faceboard in an attempt to hide some of those extension cords. Actually, he doesn’t really understand the American version of the holiday season; when it comes to Christmas he is still on the Julian calendar which puts it closer to 12th night (actually, January 7th this coming year) and it’s tied to religion more than Walmarts. Fancy that.The biggest celebration is on New Years with lots of traditional foods and friends. 20 foot blow-up snowmen terrify him and well they should.
With this week dedicated to preparing the house passing quickly, I’ve been second guessing my original plan to do a nature-inspired holiday theme. I was thinking “creatures of the field” with birds and all my lovely little german blown glass animal ornaments collected over the years. I wanted just a little hint of additional inspiration so I went over to the local interior design store. That was where I overheard two women discussing the design of their tour trees with Rudolfo. I took the pictures below just so you can see the competition.
I called Rich and suggested that the original very small budget might not be adequate for this project but he reminded me of the conversation where I exclaimed, with delight and enthusiasm, “Wait until you see what I can do with just a few hundred dollars!” Today, I am going back to decorating the Charlie Brown tree. Actually, it’s a small, but authentic German feather tree trimmed with my grandmother’s mercury glass ornaments and historically, it’s correct for this depression era bungalow. Then I’m going to yoga and mutter, “Less is more. Less is more. Less is more…”