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Day-Glo Cheer

Every December my Grandfather’s house transformed into a world of glowing lights and Day-Glo plastic cheer. As a child, I sat for hours in wonder, watching the lights, all different colors, some bubbling, some flashing, some flickering, throw their warm glow across the walls. All around the house, festive, plastic faces beamed at you like spotlights, perched on every available surface. The whole spectacle would peak on Christmas Eve when my Grandfather, dressed as Santa, marched across the house with a giant sack of presents on his back, wading through clusters of screaming children. I was convinced he was the real Santa and I was equally transfixed and terrified by his presence in the house.

Eventually the grandchildren decided Santa was a fraud, and sore knees and a bad back meant the decorations stopped their annual migration from the corners of the attic.  So there they stayed until my grandfather passed and I found myself in the attic pulling down the rodent eaten and dust choked boxes that had once been my childhood delight. Prying back the brittle lids revealed balding Santas, disfigured woodland creatures with truncated tails and busted legs, dirty yellow snowmen, waxy, melted holly, broken blubs and faded ornaments. A holiday massacre. One last time I gazed at each piece, awash in memories, before tossing it away in a cavernous dumpster.

But among all the ruin I found two plastic Santas, dusty but whole, their cords still snaking out of the back of their jolly red suits. Plugged in they burst to life with a warm, familiar glow, their faces staring out in perpetual merriment.  So I took just one, giving it a chance to bring a little holiday cheer again.

Snowman + Santa + Mouse

Pulling boxes apart, making stacks of odds and ends, trying to make sense of what was kept and why. A drug store calendar from 1966. A union pamphlet on worker safety. Two glass jars that had been filled with chunky peanut butter but now house little more than dust. The advertisements and labels on the boxes don’t reflect what’s inside. A box for an AM clock radio is really a balding Santa Claus and some woodland friends. A box with the innocuous title papers is photos and letters from a time before a marriage fell apart, when the people in the photos smiled with young pride.  An entire lifetime of a man who was raised to never throw anything away stretches out in front of me, stacked like mismatched nesting dolls. I wish he was here to talk me through it all, explain what it all means, but all I can do is look for comfort in the boxes stacked around me.