So it goes with my Christmas decorations.
About a year ago, a story assignment reaped some unexpected benefits, my picture perfect decorated house, courtesy of business partners, designers and master florists Ruth Loiseau and Bruce Valenti. The two are well-known in their field, with Loiseau tapped many times to help with the holiday decorations at the White House.
So long story, short, in 2012 I have these beautiful decorations, and when the time comes to take down the lighted garlands, cherub-spiked garnish, a crystal and gold mantle landscape and a kitchen window diorama, I did my best to pack the stuff up in some kind of order with visions of putting it all up again in 2013.
Fast forward to November’s ”Set to Celebrate” fundraiser at the Town and County Club where Loiseau and Valenti had created a spectacular white orchid and greens decor for the staircase that was part of the gorgeous event.
“Have you put your decorations up yet,” Loiseau cheerfully asked as I tried to avoid eye contact because I had poked around in the boxes in the attic coming to the conclusion there was no way I could tackle the kind of job they had done in my house.
And they came. And this time I really paid attention. I did the kitchen extravaganza and the tree myself, figured out what went where with a few changes and pulled off what amounted to a crash course in how not to be afraid when it comes to decorating the house.
This is the Cliff Notes version of what I learned.
*There is going to be a mess. Face it, embrace it and make sure the vacuum cleaner is operable because to do it right, there is going to be a mess. And it can be cleaned up.
*Smile. This should not be a chore. It should be something that puts a smile on your face. Even if it is not perfect, the point is you have a home to decorate and another year to be thankful. Count your blessings and your ornaments and enjoy.
*Welcome help. My first thought was to say ‘no’ to the offer from the two. I was embarrassed at my ineptitude and concerned about asking anyone for help. Big “NOs” to both concerns. When you have friends that are good at something, take advantage of offers. They aren’t just saying the words for kicks. kindness can be repaid. You have your own talents to reciprocate with when the time comes.
*Be brave. When it came time to try to hang the 10-pound garland on the staircase I simply stated, “I am scared of this.” “Nah, “admonished Loiseau who got the ball rolling by moving the garland from the bedroom to the hall and then dove in, making those pipe cleaners do their job and securing it all to the railing. Then it was just fluffing, straightening and adjusting. It’s just garland and glass for heaven’s sake, not brain surgery. There are do-overs. And while I fixated about ironing tablecloths and scarves for the dining room table because ‘who would put a wrinkled anything on a table?’ Valenti gave me the ’don’t bother’ sign on that task. “The wrinkles all work themselves out,” he explained. I acquiesced but not without some hyper-ventilation. The wrinkles did work out.
*Keep your fingers crossed. I still hold my breath when it comes to plugging in old Christmas lights and this year was no exception. To me there is no more daunting task than dealing with faulty lights in a tree or garland. ’They are just strings of lights,” the two once again admonished me . While one string of lights on the tree failed, Valenti, and his magic touch, located a missing light, replaced it, and voila, we had liftoff or lights on. And if they didn’t, we would have just added another string. Problem solved.
*Trust your eye. I am no master florist, interior designer nor artist, trust me. But I know what I like and found that if I just give myself a little slack, fuss a bit (in a good way) and try some creativity without making it feel like a physics final, the end result is not half bad.
Now I am sitting here, computer in my lap, coffee in a mug in front of a tree I think is magnificent. And very proud of myself.
Thanks you two, for lessons far beyond Christmas decorations. Life is short. We are often too hard on ourselves. Being willing to try has enormous benefits.
The holidays should be all about friends, family, spirit and smiles, with some lights, ribbon and greens thrown in for good measure. That’s real beauty.