Editor’s note: This was the very last story our friend and colleague Bill Burke wrote before he passed away on October 11, 2021. We will continue to miss his companionship, team spirit, wicked sense of humor, and incredible zest for life.
There was a time when the leg lamp in the front window of our southern New Hampshire home acted as a beacon to all passersby: Herein resides a weirdo.
And while these “A Christmas Story” souvenirs appear a little more often, few are standing sultry guard year-round. That’s what sets us apart. The full-size, fishnet-clad, high-heeled, kitschy/awesome major award sits on its own antique table, right out front, 365 days a year. I say it’s because we need the illumination so as to read important works and such. In reality, it’s because I have a black belt in Christmas-fu, and I am as a child. I was once introduced to someone at a town gathering on a summer day, and when he figured out where we lived he said, “Oh, you’re the leg lamp guy.”
If not for the side-eye, I’d keep our holiday decorations up all the time. Spend enough time in our house and little things will start to jump out. There’s a string of evergreen tucked up under the edge of the bar. We have a fireplace grate in front of the logs — which I will claim are yule in nature — that has an impressionistic Santa entwined in the metal.
Here’s the thing though — despite my sometimes disturbing enthusiasm for all things decked and figgy, I’m also capable of throwing great disarray into the proceedings. When my daughter was not yet 2 years old, I brought home a pair of brass Christmas stocking hangers. They were heavy (capable of holding tchotchkes aplenty) and topped by carved snowmen complete with jagged, pointy edges. As snowmen are. To demonstrate the brilliance of my latest Christmas acquisition, I placed one of these things on the edge of a table and hung a stocking from it. My daughter crawled over and did what any normal kid would do — yanked on the stocking. The weighty, pointy, brassy decoration tipped forward and plummeted downward, the decoration (now more of a whimsical ninja star) spinning toward the top of her head. Spoiler alert: She’s 19 and in college now, so I’ll skip the suspense and reveal that the stupid stocking hanger missed her completely. But just barely.
This was a valuable lesson in the perils of unnecessary Christmas expression, but it didn’t dissuade my annual explosion of festive excess. By the time you read this, it’ll look like Santa threw up all over my living room. In the coming weeks, there will be Grinches and Ralphies and Burgermeister Meisterburgers aplenty. It’ll all lead up to the Christmas Eve, when I swear I won’t be scrambling to wrap presents. But there I’ll be, surrounded by enough tinsel and garland to choke Rudolph and praying I don’t run out of Scotch tape. The Charlie Moore marathon will be on TV, and there will be a bottle of cheer nearby. I live for this.
We recently had friends over for the first time since before the pandemic. They remarked how we had our outdoor Christmas lights up nice and early this year. Yes. Nice and early. That’s it, exactly.