Everyone piles into the car to get hot chocolate at Dunkies. It's a family tradition -- as soon as our lights are up, we go out to look at everyone else's. In years past, this would mean at least one time through Millis Wonderland at the Meehan's (and often two or three times around -- yes if you live in Millis, we ARE those people who go around several times every year!) but not this year because this year they are shut down.

I grew up in a house with a Mom who has incredible Southern taste and flair. Our house was decorated at Christmas time with lights in each window, or with beautiful bows, sometimes handmade wreaths. Once year, inspired by Williamsburg, a beautiful fan of pineapples and flowers spread over the door in traditional southern hospitality. Many years, the tree was lit only with tasteful white lights, or dozens of matching golden bows. It was a beautiful scene that would rival any home magazine.

That's not me.

In college, as we worked our way towards Christmas break and snows began to fall, I would make tiny little snowmen outside the doors of all my friends. Bright twinkling lights of every color appeared in my dorm room, the front door was covered in foil and ribbons to resemble a package. And so on.

I hit my Christmas decorating stride when my children were in early elementary school. It was an all out and elaborate Advent calendar -- a box with doors behind which I would hide clues to send my children on a scavenger hunt for their fabulous daily prize. The exterior of the house would be lined with giant bulbs AND icicle lights AND a scene of lighted deer AND the front door wrapped as a giant present AND all the Misfit toys from Rudolph lining the mantle AND individual stocking holders AND on and on.

Every year, we would decorate our house, get in the car, and drive around town. We would admire other people's decorations, from the tasteful to the extravagant. One house in neighboring Medway  fills their entire lawn with giant Christmas blowups. One places candles and red balls nestled in greenery at every window. They are all glorious and we love to see them. We point them out to each other as we drive, playing Christmas music, a tiny Admiration Society enjoying our neighbor's work.

But the excitement builds as we turn back toward our house. When we turn onto our street, everyone puts down gameboys and iphones and sits up straighter. And when we catch sight of our house, we begin to call out our happiness -- There's our house!  Look, our house looks great! We have the best lights of anyone! It looks so pretty!
Inspired by my children's happiness, I tried every year to outdo myself in lighting and decorating. And held onto every homemade ornament, every piece of Christmas decoration they chose and knew and loved.

It was never about competition. We're not the people who try to outdo ourselves every year, with coordinated light and sound shows. It's not about wanting to do what anyone else does.

We just like our house best.

We like it best because we live there. Two kids and a Mom with a deep love and trust in one another. Because in that house is joy and warmth and love and trust and safety. It's about seeing home as a shining beacon of what it is to know you are loved in the world. It is holy for us, a sacramental offering of light and silliness,an icon of all that we know to be good in the world. Our house is the best house, because we who love each other live in it.

Until this year.

My oldest is 20 and away at college, not expected back until mid-December. It was clear my youngest, at 15, was plodding through her clues from the Advent calendar to humor me. Small toys weren't interesting any more, of course, so we had graduated to earrings and cosmetics but still... She'd rather choose them herself. I hadn't yet put up lights, neither child wanted to help with them, they just weren't interested. The youngest was horrified by my plans to project a moving Santa's sleigh onto the side of the house. NO!! People will know its our house!  She insisted on a real tree this year instead of our glaringly fake white one. And when it was time to put lights on the tree, she insisted on only white ones. No colors. Usually, we decorate the tree together but this year she wanted to do it with friends. No reindeer with googly eyes made from clothespins on this tree, no sir. The Pokemon ornaments made it on so they're still cool enough, but not the paper-mache handprints of each child. Nope Nope.

I had to sneak on the old styrofoam Gingerbread man covered in glitter I've had since my own childhood. Stuck in the way back of the tree where I hope she won't look.

As December wound on, I noticed my youngest daughter making comments as we drove home --" It's so dark outside our house." "I just can't get into the holiday mood.  I asked her, "Should I put up lights?"  "No, they're kind of embarrassing."  How about Simon the elf on a shelf, you love him (more on my daughter's love for her Christmas elf in a later blog) "No, that's babyish."


I see what's happening here. Someone thinks she is too old for all the Christmas hoopla.

Wanting to respect her wishes, I tried to turn it down several notches. First I put a wreath on the front door. No reaction. Then I wound a red garland around the stair rail. Still nothing.


When she was at school yesterday, I wrapped about a mile of brightly colored twinkle lights around the outside porch and stair rails. I lined each downstairs window in lights, and looped them up over the living room curtains. She came home from school and didn't notice. I asked, "Did you see what I did on the porch?" "No," disinterested and back to the phone.

Oh well, I thought. Teenagers, I thought.

I hooked all my lights to timers and forgot about them. Yesterday in the early evening, I got notice that I need to go over to the church for a bit. She went with me so we could grab a bite to eat on the way home. As we left the church and started home, we discussed the lights we saw on the way, oohing and aahing over the full display in Medway next to the Middle School, the lights on Exchange Street as we drove towards home.

Suddenly, she leaned forward looking intently down the road. "Look at that, its so bright!"  As we drove towards our house, all lit up with lights, a sense of wonder grew on her face. "That's our house! Our house looks the best on the whole block!" She settled back into her seat as we drove around to the back of the house. As I turned off the car, she turned to me. "I love you Mom."

Our house is the best.