Welcome, welcome friends! I’m so excited to be apart of the Jennifer Rizzo Design Company Holiday Housewalk again this year and bring you some Christmas home decorating ideas and inspiration!
You won’t want to miss out on all of the beautiful homes so be sure to head over to Jen’s to begin at the beginning.
If you are coming here after paying a visit to Jen at City Farmhouse I know you’ve already seen some truly beautiful eye candy and I’m so glad that you continued the housewalk and have found your way here.
As I began to hang the garland on my banister this year, memories of a Christmas long ago came flooding back.
In 1983, my grandmother, a long-time widow, found love again. And when she and her soon-to-be-husband, Chet, settled on a Christmas Day wedding, my parents decided that we would make the journey from Southern California to Michigan to be there. The wedding was to be held at the home of my Aunt and Uncle and this would be a chance for my mom to spend time with her family whom she dearly missed.
At 7 years old, I have to admit that I wasn’t too thrilled to be stuck in a station wagon for days on end right before Christmas. In her wisdom, my mom allowed me to open my ‘big’ gift from them prior to our departure and I have to admit that clutching my brand new Molly doll from The Pleasant Company (which was soon taken over by American Girl) definitely made me feel a bit less apprehensive about our trek across the country.
But, even a brand new doll can’t help when you run into horrible blizzards and encounter treacherous driving conditions. I will never forget the tense moments as the station wagon inched it’s way through the storm. Snuggled into the very back (this was before seat belt laws!), I was quite certain that we should have just stayed home.
When we finally pulled up to my Aunt Christine and Uncle Bob’s home I could barely make out the outline of the huge, white historic house against the dark sky.
Tired, cold and hungry, we were just so relieved to be out of the car that we didn’t waste any time hurrying up to the door.
We trudged up the front steps just as the door was being opened for us and we were quickly enveloped in hugs and greetings. As we entered the house, the first thing I noticed was the enormous wood staircase and banister. I had never seen anything like it in my life. But, what really caught my eye was that the entire banister was covered in red stockings. There must have been 20 of them!
And to a little 7 year old girl, away from home on Christmas, the sight of those stockings filled me with the hope that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.
My mom and dad disappeared with the other grown-ups and a cousin was given the job of showing us to our rooms. I walked up that giant staircase with a kind of awe and reverence. I had never been in a home quite like this before and I felt as though I had stepped back in time.
The long hallway at the top of the stairs revealed more doors than I could have imagined in one house. And while the hallway was very cold, the warmth that greeted me when I entered my room took the chill off right away. My suitcase was brought in and then suddenly I was alone. And I didn’t like it.
I hurried back down the stairs and found my way into the living room where a huge Christmas tree stood in the front window with presents piled underneath. One glance revealed that my name was actually on some of them!
(Jute Tree Skirt from Wayfair)
Following the sound of talking and laughter, I made it into the kitchen and was greeted by the most amazing aromas. Warm soup, bread, and something I had never seen before. Little oyster crackers covered in some kind of topping. It was that moment when my love affair with ranch crackers began. A love affair I have now passed onto my own children.
All throughout that evening, my eyes kept wandering over to the banister covered in stockings. Was it possible that one of those was mine? My aunt and uncle had a lot of kids and a lot of extended family plus they hosted foreign exchange students so I figured it was probably a long shot. Out of self-preservation, I determined that it didn’t really matter because it wouldn’t be my stocking. My familiar stocking that hung on the fireplace each year and was stuck back in Southern California.
The next day dawned bright and clear and we kids were encouraged to head outside to get some fresh air. Now that I’m a wife and mother myself I realize this had nothing to do with us but everything to do with giving the grown-ups a chance to get things done before the Christmas Day wedding.
Stuffed into snow-clothes, we made our way to the front porch where we gleefully discovered that there was so much snow it was touching the bottom of the porch swing. This made for some very fun times as we took turns pushing each other on the swing and sending snow flying through the air.
It was during this time that I finally had a chance to take in the beauty of my aunt and uncle’s home. The sight of it against the bright, white snow is something I have never forgotten. And I realized that it was beginning to seem less intimidating.
(Uncle Bob and Aunt Christine’s home circa 1980-something)
It was beginning to feel more like home.
Later that day, after we had thawed out over hot cocoa, I mustered up the courage to ask my aunt if one of those red stockings hanging from the banister was mine. She took my hand and led me over to them and pointed up at the place where the banister began to turn. “See that one right there? That one is yours!”
I couldn’t hide my joy and marveled that I would have a place there among the others. That someone had thought about how much it would mean to two little girls, away from home at Christmas, to have stockings.
Uncle Bob and Aunt Christine have always understood that hospitality is simply love in action. It’s the tangible form that love takes as we extend it to others. They have been opening their homes and their hearts to people from all around the world and from all walks of life for as long as I can remember and this Christmas was no exception.
Christmas morning brought with it a fresh snowstorm and concerns about getting my grandmother and her fiance from their respective homes some distance away.
Not to be dissuaded, my uncle and an older cousin braved the roads and delivered the bride and groom safely to the house.
Later that morning, I slowly walked down the stairs in front of my grandmother, thrilled to finally get to be a flower girl in a wedding. Everyone in the family had a role. My sister lit the candles, my dad performed the ceremony and my mom and aunt did the decorating and the food. It was to always be known as the most lovely Christmas wedding we had ever attended.
But as wonderful as it was, it’s not the wedding that has stood out to me all of these years.
That Christmas of 1983 taught me that home was so much more than a place.
I learned that I didn’t have to be in my home to feel at home. And perhaps it was then that the seed was planted in my own heart to want to make others feel at home, no matter where we are.
At Christmas, more than any other time of the year, people seem to be longing for a sense of home.
And I believe that each one of us has the ability to create that for others. It doesn’t have to be complicated, or over the top.
It can be as simple as smiling and making eye contact.
Or seeing a need and meeting it.
Or inviting a neighbor to church with you.
Or adding one more stocking.
My Aunt and Uncle continue to provide a sense of home for so many people. And they have always been so incredibly supportive of Heather and me through all of our At the Picket Fence adventures. I’m pretty sure my aunt was one of the first, if not THE first, people to buy our book. We’re so grateful that even though we live so many miles apart, when we are together there is always a sense of being right at home.
And, speaking of homes, it’s time for us to say goodbye for now and for you to move on to the next stop on the Holiday Housewalk. You’ll be visiting the home of the incredibly talented and lovely (inside and out) Bre of Rooms for Rent and I know you will love it as much as I do.
As you enter this season, may your own homes be filled with joy and may you be watching for ways to bring that joy to others.
Much love to you sweet friends,
And don’t forget, our book ‘Life in Season’ makes such a lovely gift!
Find out how to buy it here