FRIDAY MORNING, I woke up feeling too little holiday spirit because I had too many holiday chores. I had just returned from a family visit in Massachusetts, and the cards weren't sent, the shopping wasn't finished, the house was a mess.
I hadn't baked a single Christmas cookie. There was no milk in the refrigerator. And with the deadline for this neighborhood column looming, I felt more like grumbling than singing carols.
But that was before I set out with the grocery store at the top of my list. Along the way, I drove by the addresses of homes that had won the Crofton Town Club's annual Illumination Contest - and I found the holiday spirit bright.
Linda Sayan, who helped judge this year's competition, said it was difficult to choose because there were "so many great houses," some with traditional decorations, others in a more contemporary style.
One house was transformed into a Christmas tree, with a star shining from its roof, brightly wrapped presents surrounding the door and toy soldiers lining the driveway. Another home featured holiday figures on the lawn and Santa's sleigh riding across the roof.
My favorite was in the Crofton's Lake Louise townhouse community. When I passed that home, something inside me said, "Ah! That's it!" I drove closer to see the simple but elegant decorations. Greens and candles adorned the windows. A holiday wreath graced the door. A simple nativity scene sat on the lawn. And a white Christmas angel stood in the main window. How pretty!
Next to the angel stood a little girl. Then, the girl moved. She was real! I should have been polite and stopped staring at someone else's house. But I was curious. Who was this family that somehow caught the Christmas spirit so simply?
So, I knocked on the door. To my amazement, a man wearing a Santa hat opened the door. I introduced myself, and he invited me in. That is how I met the Rose family.
Vincent Rose is a computer specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He and his wife, Suzy, love Christmas. And 4 1/2 -year-old Mary's eyes glowed as she talked about the holiday - not just Santa Claus, but the angel and Baby Jesus.
Twelve-year-old Alison was more refined, but also glowing happily as we talked about the different decorations and how important the holiday is.
The Rose family showed me the other rooms in their home at 1608 Angus Court, each beautifully ready to welcome the holiday. A creche in the dining room, the Christmas tree, stockings in the windows, greens entwined around the banister and even Christmas lights in the back garden.
As we chatted about our plans for the holiday, I felt all the tension leaving me. They offered me a cup of coffee, but I remembered I had to buy milk. So, regretfully, I declined, saying, "I have to go, but I don't want to leave here."
But duty and the supermarket were tugging at my coat. So I said goodbye and went to the front door. When the door opened, it began to snow. Not messy, slippery snow. Just the kind of snow that is pretty to look at.
It was like magic.
I headed off to the grocery store, post office, gas station and bank. Back home, I hit the laundry room and the dishwasher. The list was still long. But somehow, they were no longer chores.
Christmas is over, but the decorations will be there for several more days. This year, when I drive through the neighborhoods, I will enjoy the lights in a special way, thinking of all the families like the Roses who live behind the lights.
The three other contest-winning homes are located at 2809 Klein Court, 1677 Patrice Circle and 2614 Walden Drive. But in checking them out, feel free to choose your favorites.
Mission rectory open house
Each month, members of the Waugh Chapel Mission Community, a new Catholic parish in Odenton, celebrate Hospitality Sunday.
After Mass, which is celebrated at Four Seasons Elementary School, the parishioners meet for social interaction and social action.
After sharing refreshments and friendly conversation, they sort materials they have gathered for distribution to parents and children at Chrysalis House, a long-term residential alcohol and drug treatment and transitional housing facility for low-income women.
The next Hospitality Sunday, this weekend, will also serve as a rectory open house.
Parishioners and friends of the new parish are invited to attend the event, which will be held at the rectory, at 1755 Urby Drive in Crofton, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Information: 410-451-8285 or 410-793-0270, or visit the Web site at www.wcmission.org.