Pride goeth before
and an haughty spirit
before a fall.
-- Proverbs 16:18
If I'd known they were going to name the
Christmas house tour "Skyline Elegance," I never would have agreed to let our
house be on it. False advertising! "Skyline Huts," or "Skyline Wackiness,"
would've been a better match for what our home looks like.
But we live in "Skyline Ranches," and
they're trying to induce ladies to fork over $20 ($15 in advance at Hy-Vee,
hint, hint) this coming Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. They will see four
homes in this neighborhood all dolled up for Christmas by professional florists
and designers. Woot!
It's for a great cause: providing winter
coats and clothing to disadvantaged children who might otherwise skip school
for lack of winter gear. So, to attract the 2,000 expected holiday decor
rubber-neckers, they went with the "elegance" motif.
But what they didn't know is that I don't
"DO" elegance. To wit:
Our two big, dumb dogs got sprayed by a
skunk. Hydrogen peroxide got most of it out. The definitive term, however, is
"most." A few nights later, skunk aroma came wafting inside from the bushes out
front, where I think the critter has a condo. It was so rank, the neighbor down
the street could smell it, too. That was about a week ago, but Murphy's Law probably
will strike Thursday. Can't wait for the 2,000 ladies to waltz into our home
and get a snoot full of skunk stink!
Then there are the 42 million box elder
bugs which have descended upon the north side of our house, inconveniently
right near the front door. The siding is warmed by the autumn sun and the
creepy crawlers swarm all over windows, vents and countless cracks and hidey
holes. It looks like someone keeps throwing a barrel full of crawling raisins
on the front of our house.
I couldn't take the fear and trepidation
of one or more of those box elder bugs getting inside the house and bungee-ing
onto the coiffure of some kindly Christmas hour tour enthusiast, to the screams
of her companions. So for the last week, I have been going out there several
times a day to commit mass murder. I started out with a spray bottle with a gentle
mix of water and Dawn dishwashing liquid, a "green" response. But then we had
the windows washed. I didn't want to mess up the glass by spraying any more.
So for the past few days, I have been going
out there and squashing dozens of them, up close and personal, with my index
finger - occasionally peering at the targeted bug so closely that its innards
squirt into my EYEBALL by mistake.
Yep, I've been working hard and getting
exhausted out of foolish pride to get our house ready for this tour, to the
point of blinding myself with bug innards. I've been on a tear, at the mercy of
all the negative emotions - pride, fear, shame, perfectionism, and most of all,
the knowledge that my MOTHER and her friends are all coming through. As we said
in dramatic moments throughout my childhood: ORGAN MUSIC!!!
So we had painters in, and got new
carpet, and finally fixed the water damage in the basement, and got two new
wonderful, overstuffed chairs. I've been boldly cleaning what has rarely, if
ever, been cleaned before. Actually, it has been great therapy, and we will
enjoy cleanliness and beauty this holiday season as never before.
The florist assigned to our house, Andrea's
Designs of Elkhorn,
created this masterpiece on our mantel today -
Meanwhile, I imagined the other three
homeowners sitting back in their recliners, wearing silk ascots and fluffy
slippers, hardly having to lift a finger to get ready for the tour.
As if! One of them is working with a
florist whose helper sustained a head injury. So her head is wrapped like Mrs.
Frankenstein and she can't lift anything. Therefore, this neighbor is having to
carry in the 4 million boxes of decorations, and stand on ladders and cut
lengths of wire to assist the florist in all the preparations. We started
giggling over the fact that it is close enough to Halloween that maybe the
Frankenstein lookalike should stand out front with a plastic pumpkin, and
people might put extra donations in it. Trick or treat!
Another neighbor shared that over the
years, she has taped dozens of darling pictures of her grandchildren all around
her bathroom mirror, to the point where she can barely see her own face in the
morning. She wondered whether she should take them all down for the house tour.
People said of course not, since it is so sweet to see a grandmother's devotion.
But then she saw a crime show on TV, where the MURDERER taped pictures of his
intended VICTIMS on his bathroom mirror when he was STALKING them!!!! What
would people THINK?!? AAAIIIEEE!!!
I'll tell you what they'll think:
At our house, they'll see the gashes
etched in the doors by the toenails of our boisterous hounds over the years,
and they'll know that we are animal lovers. Those aren't unsightly scratches,
they are love marks from beings who would literally move heaven and earth just
to be in the same room with their humans.
They'll see the grease spots from
countless peanut butter smears and cookie handprints on the walls, and the
little boy's name etched in the glass of the front storm door one day when our
girls weren't home and he wanted to let them know he had stopped by.
The visitors will see those flaws, and
they'll know that we have reared four children within these walls, and they
have meant more than any House Beautiful
magazine cover or remodeling bill could ever begin to cover. Those aren't
scribble marks and chipped paint - those are badges of courage for two parents
who promised that neither sickness nor poverty nor water stains on the wooden
floorboards from when the fish tank exploded will ever make this anything but a
happy home, warts and all.
Will the visitors guess that behind a
picture in Maddy's room, there's her first written words: "FROG POOPT ON DAD,"
written in green crayon when he sent her to her room for some forgotten
infraction, and we were too sentimental to have it painted over?
Will they hear the echoes of countless
times one of us called: "I love you!" or "I'm home, safe!" or "For the 17th
time, get your buns down here for dinner!" . . . or faint refrains of "Happy
Birthday" or the laughter and bubbling conversation of dozens of Thanksgiving
and Christmas dinners . . . or those middle-of-the-night sick kid episodes . .
. or giggles at slumber parties. . . .
I think they will know that these are
homes, not houses, that they are touring. And for that, I feel pride . . . in a
It'll be the same with the other
homeowners who are opening their homes for this good cause. We are opening our
hearts, more than anything.
No, our homes won't be perfect, and yes,
there may be box elder bugs and the slight scent of skunk stink. But what will
be on display this Thursday, more than anything else, will be love - the love
of a family shared in a home that reflects their unique personality and history.
And if that isn't elegance, I don't know
what is. †