THE WEEKEND AFTER Thanksgiving, our family, like many others, begins to decorate for Christmas. Up to the attic we go to bring out boxes of ornaments, lights, stockings and all the other holiday trimmings.
In our mind's eye, the house will be transformed by the end of the day into a vision of holiday splendor.
Reality is a bit different.
The boys are old enough to be really helpful. That means they are also old enough to have lots of other things to do.
And somehow, Christmas boxes always end up in the very back of the attic behind an assortment of suitcases and other paraphernalia that has built up over the year.
We all know that every string of lights hides a grinch light - in our house, that's the one that makes my husband tear his hair out as he tries to get the tree looking "just so."
And the decorations. After 15 years, the nursery school projects look more than a little shabby. But who could imagine removing them from their rightful place of honor on the tree?
Well, at least there is one job we don't have to do this year. The Nativity plaque is already on the front door. Last year, we used a new kind of adhesive to attach the plaque to the glass. After the holidays, we tried to remove it. No luck. The only way to get Christmas off the front door would have been to break the glass. So, we left the plaque there.
We got some funny looks from people who visited us in the summertime, wondering if we were decorating extra early or just forgetful. But at least that part of our decorating is done.
Unfortunately, we have yet to do the rest of the house. Boxes are stacked in the living room. The tree is not set up. The bushes outside are bare of lights. The windows have no candles. We have a lot of work to do.
But we are just responsible for one house. Last week, I met a local man who takes on holiday decorating in a big way. He decorates more than 60 houses each Christmas.
David Muir has always loved Christmas. When he was a boy, he played Christmas carols over and over again. After graduating from Loyola College's business management program, he worked as an event planner, organizing parties, weddings, conferences and galas.
Four years ago, he became owner of Melange, a gift and decorating shop in Crofton's Village Green. Much of his time is taken up with managing the shop. But he also continues decorating for weddings and other events. During the holiday season, he decorates the homes of more than 60 area families, in addition to managing holiday decorations for several area firms.
Some of Muir's clients want a different look for their trees every year, keeping up with the latest trends in decorating. Last year, Muir says, gossamer butterflies were popular. This year, he has seen beautiful Santa Claus decorations in unusual colors, such as celadon, gold and platinum.
Muir remembers one client who wanted a 20-foot tree, decorated with only Christopher Radko ornaments. These popular glass figures are beautiful, but pricey, and to fill a 20-foot tree cost thousands of dollars.
After the holiday, Muir asked his client where she would like the ornaments stored. To his surprise, she didn't want to be bothered with storing them, because she planned to have a different kind of tree the next year. She told Muir that he could just throw out the ornaments if he'd like.
Of course, he didn't. He gave a few to friends and the others to local charitable organizations and nursing homes for their patients to enjoy.
Other clients want their traditional family ornaments. So Muir decorates their homes with their ornaments. But he takes time to be sure each string of lights is properly placed and all ornaments arranged to look their best.
One Christmas, Muir was extra busy when a client called for help. He couldn't work her home into his regular work hours. So she gave him her key. During the night, while her family slept, Muir decorated her tree and house, even setting up the lights outside.
The client laughingly called him Santa and said she understood anew how youngsters felt on Christmas morning: When she awoke, she went downstairs to see the whole house transformed into Christmas.
Muir says that many people have taken to having two trees - one elegantly decorated, the other filled with cherished family memories.
What kind of tree will Muir have in his home?
Actually, he will have six. One will be covered with sugared fruit, the second with Victorian trimmings. A third tree features Radko ornaments and a fourth butterflies. Shortly before Christmas he will decorate his natural tree, a fresh one covered with roses and other flowers. Finally, he always has a "children's tree," which this year will honor his new niece, Kayla, with "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments.
Six trees! Now that's a decorating job I am glad to leave to the experts. One tree is all I can handle.
Tree of gifts