Finding your center during the holidays

If my love of Halloween came from my grandmother, surely my love of Christmas came from my grandfather.

Bill Murray was your typical “family man,” except he wasn’t typical. Most men I know don’t really get into the holiday decorating spirit. They put up some outdoor lights, often begrudgingly, and let their spouse do the rest. Most of my male friends do appreciate and enjoy the holidays and decorations but tend to be bystanders. They are usually just as surprised as their children when they see what Santa placed under their tree. Of course, this is a blanket statement and not true of everyone. So please know I’m not trying to offend anyone, just sharing my observations.

My grandfather was not a holiday bystander. He truly enjoyed getting ready for Christmas. He was an active participant in the decorating. And he was old school – large colored bulbs adorned the exterior of our house and in true Clark Griswold fashion, he would check each and every one of those bulbs when one went out.

Me and my Poppa, William Murray, at one of his famous work Christmas parties sometime in the early 90s.

He was the designated lighting expert and taught me the proper way to string lights on the tree. This involved many strands of lights – 100 for every foot of the tree. For a 7-foot tree, that meant seven strands of lights. Yes, 700 lights on one tree. And you couldn’t just wrap them around all namby-pamby (is that how that’s spelled?). Nope, every strand had to be placed with purpose. Each strand was intentional. He would start each string from the pole, deep in the center of the tree and work his way out toward the front of the branch, securing the lights to individual branches. Then he would weave the strand back toward the center, then back out to the front, and so on, for 700 lights. For him, it was always about going back to the center, and reaching out, much like the way he lived his life.

When it was done, it was gorgeous. A beacon of light that could be seen by passersby and I’m sure the glow from the window could be seen from the sky as well. It was his pride and joy without the tackiness of being a Leg Lamp.

I will admit that I’m not as meticulous about my lights. And I definitely don’t check every bulb if one is out. My tree doesn’t always meet the 100-lights-per-foot standard, however, I do like a lot of lights and my special lighting “trick” is to use all clear, non-blinking lights throughout the entire tree, then I fill in with a few strands of twinkling lights for extra sparkle. I think my Poppa would be proud.

This year’s 6-foot family Christmas tree, complete with 500 lights.

I have also inherited his knack for finding fault with something in the household days before Christmas that needs immediate attention, thus creating a home project. I distinctly remember one year that he HAD to repaint our wood stairs. For me, it’s usually something smaller, but I have found myself “touching up” paint on the walls or rearranging furniture and even sewing pillow covers a day or two before Christmas.

He was Santa not just for my family, but for his friends and anyone who needed something. He was extremely generous and made donations to numerous charities. He did whatever he could to help others all year, but especially at Christmas.

I am trying to pass that on to my children and instill in them a sense of generosity. We don’t have a lot to spare, but we always find some way to give. It’s about finding that center point and branching out, always returning back to where you started. So, thank you, Pop, for this legacy and the gift of Christmas Spirit.

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