I’m a baby boomer who grew up in a neighborhood built for the returning veterans of WWII. The homes were all pretty much identical, cape styles with a small kitchen and living room, one bathroom, two small bedrooms and an unfinished attic where the dads with handyman skills could expand the little house to include two additional bedrooms to accommodate the growing families.
It was the type of neighborhood where all the kids knew one another and hung out until the street lights came on at dusk. We organized our own basketball and kickball games, and we even managed to choreograph shows that we would perform for our moms in the finished or sometimes unfinished basements of the little houses. It was a fun childhood.
At Christmas time the little neighborhood would come alive with Santa and his reindeer on the front lawns and roofs, lots of big bright colorful lights covering every shrub and tree and various renditions of large wrapped gifts on the front lawns. That was every house, except ours….my mom and dad weren’t like the other moms and dads in the neighborhood. My folks were a little different, they enjoyed the theater, the arts and my mom especially enjoyed her opera and show tunes. It wasn’t unusual for me to come home from school to mom singing along to her favorite music.
But, back to Christmas, our house had no outward signs of Santa and bright lights, instead, my artistic dad painted a beautiful mural of the Three Wisemen which he put on the front door and illuminated with a single spotlight. As a kid, I was embarrassed, we were the only ones in the subdivision without a Santa and we were the only ones probably in the entire town with the Three Wisemen on the front door…kids would ask us, what’s that, and where is Santa and how come you don’t have any lights? We were confused…which led to the anxiety…what if Santa gets mad…what if he skips our house because we don’t have bright colorful lights and an image of him on our front lawn? How could our parents do this to us?
Many years later I was able to reflect that this was an early lesson about the importance of being just a bit different. Whether it was the Christmas decorations, or being the only Protestant family in the neighborhood, or the parents that weren’t like the rest…at the time, when you’re little and you just want to fit in, it seemed a bit unnerving, but as an adult and looking back, my folks were mavericks, they were ahead of their time. And if my dad could market his artistic interpretation of the Three Wiseman today he’d probably be a rich guy!
Thankfully, I’ve managed to get over the trauma of not having a Santa and flashing bright lights at my childhood home. I’ve found that in the scheme of things, it’s not such a big deal. What’s important is the love that’s in your house and not the flashing lights and decorations outside…and looking back, I can never think of a time when I didn’t feel unconditional love from my parents, and that was always the best present of all.