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Holly Henry column: It’s beginning to look a lot not like Christmas

Holly Henry

As the holiday season is officially upon us, I am once again reminded of my continued desire to make my house look like a Hallmark commercial. Every year at this time I fancy myself Barbara Stanwyck in “Christmas in Connecticut.” However, much like Barb, I don’t really have the actual skills to be a holiday entertainer, I just want all the sparkle, baubles, lights, greenery, the pretty little appetizers on tiny plates, and the people all dressed up in their holiday finery to appear. Only I don’t really like people all that much.

OK, it’s not that I don’t actually like the people. I just don’t like them coming to my house and having to be responsible for their happiness. But boy, would I like my home to look like a holiday party, even if no one comes.

I tried to have Christmas Eve at my house one year, cooking a four-course meal and making little placeholders and a proper calligraphed menu so folks would know what they were eating, just in case it wasn’t obvious. I decorated two trees, actually bought matching wrapping paper and bows, and played background holiday classics by Tony Bennett.

And seriously, no one noticed. Not one of my ungrateful family members even said a word. It was as if I were Martha Stewart every year.

Thus, for many years after, I displayed utter decorating apathy during the holiday season. Sure, shopping happened, but no wrapping paper fanfare, no coconut cocadas or fresh fruit tartlets, and they sure weren’t getting Tony Bennett in the background.

Still, I remain envious of those who stage the perfect holiday season. One of my coworkers is nothing short of a holiday miracle. Every year, it would appear, a thousand elves descend on her house with pine boughs, lights, ribbons and ornaments. She shamelessly dresses her dogs in Santa hats, elf ears and reindeer antlers, and lights up her house like Times Square.

While the rest of us are concerned she is one circuit breaker away from becoming front-page news, she blissfully throws holiday glitter about and hums, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” at staff meetings

Oh, how I want to be just like her.

At the risk of placing blame for my lack of decorating prowess solidly where it belongs, I’m going to point the finger at my mother. While a completely capable woman (she can change oil, for gosh sakes), she isn’t much one for fanfare. We have to remind her as we’re about to sit down to eat Thanksgiving dinner that it sure would be nice if we had a vegetable this year. “Open a can of beans then” is her reply (and I’m not making this up.)

New Year’s Eve at her house is a bottle of champagne and one of those shrimp rings you get out of the freezer aisle at the grocery store.

Again, Mom is quite capable, gifted even. She can cook, run the snowblower, replace zippers, make curtains and carry out an abundance of other creative tasks, but not once do I remember having a holiday centerpiece on our table. Not even a candle.

So, alas, it is her fault I do not throw lavish Christmas Eve celebrations or New Year’s Eve parties – or any parties at all for that matter.

I’ve come to accept we are genetically wired to think nothing says “happy holidays” like a bottle of Mogen David and a plastic red Solo party cup.

So bottoms up to the holiday season. The pickles wrapped in cream cheese and ham and Spam cubes on toothpicks are in the fridge.