Southern Living makes me sad

Paper chains

Because of Southern Living I contemplate the purchase of Christmas topiary.

Because of Southern Living I recognize beachy pastels as possible holiday colors.

Because of Southern Living I find my self uttering words like “table-scape” and “disco-ball-esque.”

Because of Southern Living I am sad.

This year’s Christmas issue, a “special double issue,” found its way to my mailbox in November to taunt me, to mock me, to make me feel vaguely inferior and sort of shabby. Page after glossy page featured showplace rooms with every imaginable bit of color-coordinated holiday finery. The coral drapes match the coral and teal tree that match the coral and teal gifts that match the stockings hung by the chimney with more than just a teensy bit of care. Everything is “punchy.” It all must “pop.”

Editor M. Lindsay Bierman must have had me in mind as he watched this issue come together. In what appears to be an attempt to empathize with the common reader, he shares a dark secret with us — that his own Christmas won’t look like the pages of the magazine either, that his kitchen will be messy, that his presents will not be works of wrapping art. The magazine is to inspire, he writes, to bring out the “dreamer,” the “doer.”

I don’t buy it. My suburban ranch-style home, a product of the late 60s just like me, is not now and never will be a decorator show home — no matter how much I dream or do. It’s just not, well, it’s just not…Audrey. My decorating style can only be characterized as eclectic (read inherited, free, antique and/or thrift combined with a variety of local art work and sundry little collections of things that please me).

And you know what? I like it that way.

A couple of weeks ago, I put down the Southern Living and set about my own Christmas decorating as I do every year. My holiday style, much like my decorating style, can only be described as eclectic (read not matching, inherited, free, antique, gifts). I don’t have a snowy white tree. None of my decorations necessarily match, or mismatch. And I could not care less about seasonal napkin rings.

But here’s what I do have.

Elves in a Styrofoam and glitter hot-air balloon
Elves in a Styrofoam and glitter hot-air balloon

I have elves in a Styrofoam and glitter hot-air balloon. Every year, me and Sarah, Granny’s housekeeper and my constant companion, would unpack Granny’s Christmas ornaments, every one carefully wrapped in tissue paper from the year before. This was my favorite. Where were the little elves going? Are they going home to the North Pole? Running away? Were they like the Jumblies, which my mother read to me over and over at my behest, off in search of adventure and Chankly Bore? The elves are hanging on my tree right now, and every time I see them, the same thoughts still run through my mind.

Wax Christmas balls
Wax Christmas balls

I also have Granny’s wax Christmas balls which, after many, many years of hot Southern attic summers, have melted into the very tissue paper that was supposed to protect them. Even though they can no longer be used, I still keep them, and admire their misshapen beauty every year. I guess the Alabama heat eventually gets the best of all of us.

Paper chains
Paper chains

I have the paper chains Sonny and I made with dime store construction paper and Scotch tape. They’re a little faded, but the memory of the afternoon we spent making them has not.

boot
Ceramic Santa boot

I have a ceramic Santa boot given to me by my third grade Sunday School teacher, Miss Bobbi. It has my first and middle name painted on it in gold. It came filled with candy. I’ve had it for thirty-five Christmases now.

Baby's First Christmas
Baby’s First Christmas

I have a Baby’s First Christmas ornament given by Daddy to Sonny for just that. I have thirteen more ornaments, each one different and special, that Daddy has given Sonny every year since the first. One day Sonny will have them on his own tree.

Santa and Mrs. Claus
Santa and Mrs. Claus

Did you know that Santa and Mrs. Claus lead secret, double lives? In addition to all that toy making business, they also serve up salt and pepper every year on my dining table. I can’t remember a Christmas without them.

Grapevine wreaths
Grapevine wreaths

I have grapevine wreaths made from grapevines I grew. Sometimes I put ribbons on them. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I leave them up all year ’round. Wish I could do the same thing with my Christmas lights, but the neighbors would talk.

My Christmas extravaganza
My Christmas extravaganza

Speaking of lights, here are mine! White lights are elegant and all that, but I like the colored ones better and lots of them. I wish I had more lights this year. I also wish I had an extension ladder. And a staple gun. And the courage to climb up on the roof.

Here’s what I have.

Real Southern living. And that doesn’t make me sad at all. In fact, it makes me rather happy.