Siegfried and Joy

December 7, 2013 | By | Comments (1)
Illustration by Gracia Lam

Illustration by Gracia Lam

During a holiday away from home, Allison Glock celebrates Santa in Sin City.

Last Christmas, my husband (known here as Mr. Beasley) and I decided to experiment with a nontraditional holiday. For as long as I can remember, I have been, let’s say, thematically inclined. I’ve never met a vintage decoration I didn’t like. I harvest natural boughs for garland. I string twinkle lights from every doorjamb. I bow-up the dogs. Then I bake. And make treat baskets for my friends and neighbors. With hand-embroidered napkins inside. Featuring holiday motifs.

It is a sickness. One that afflicts my entire family of origin. Maybe because we lived so many years in one-season Florida, we felt the need to overcompensate. Every year, my mother would unpack the multitudes of cardboard boxes crammed with ornaments, velveteen red ribbons, and snow-sprayed pinecone wreaths. No shelf escaped an elf or porcelain Santa. If Christmas had a pride parade, it would look like our house.

Problem is, playing hillbilly Martha Stewart is time-consuming and expensive. It also, according to Mr. Beasley, can make a person grumpy.

“Next year let’s just go away someplace instead,” my husband suggested after weathering a particularly grueling season wherein I had enlisted his help with the napkin sewing and made him watch the entire Gilmore Girls box set.

“Who would water the tree?” I asked.

“We wouldn’t have a tree,” he said with unconcealed enthusiasm. One look into his squinty sewing eyes and I knew he wasn’t kidding. “Some people actually relax on their holidays,” he added stiffly.

A deal was struck. In two years, he could design the Christmas vacation. Which is how last Noel we ended up in Vegas with 20 members of Mr. Beasley’s extended family.

Initially, I was lost. With no seasonal chores to do, I found myself idle for the first time in decades. Instead of cooking and decorating, I went zip-lining with the kids. In lieu of art-directing our tree, we posed for snapshots in front of the casino’s 22-footer adorned with stuffed tigers. There was no caroling, but there was David Copperfield, and a roller coaster, and all we could eat.

Susan, Mr. Beasley’s statuesque, red-headed aunt from Amarillo, sensed my unease. A schoolteacher for 30 years, she likened my displacement to the way she felt during the summer months. “It’s hard for Southern women to do nothing,” she said sagely. “We like to feel useful. It’s how we show we care.”

And there it was in a chestnut-shell. My Christmas obsession wasn’t about the holiday at all. It was about creating a space that felt like love. A magical, light-filled fantasy reflecting promise and hope and dreams we pray will come true. Not so far off from Vegas, actually. Only with fewer drunk Santas. And a lot more sugar.


  1. Marla Hastings

    Allison, I love tradition, but like you I have also learned to participate in something different.
    Tradition is something we all want and always go back to and the warmth we feel as love from and to others. It is important to let others do the giving instead of ourselves all the time. Hope you have a wonderful traditional and/or non-traditional Christmas. – Marla

    December 8, 2013 at 4:41 pm

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