Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Growing Army of Santas

Sad to admit, I drive Hwy. 63 from Columbia into the Ozarks more times a week than I eat apples. Ever since my discovery last December of a veritable army of plastic Santas and Snowmen located in the vast mown lawn of sprawling one story house outside of Vienna, I've been obsessed with these statues that require one light bulb for illumination. Last January, I noted the passing of the Vienna Santa lawn with a heavy sigh--Christmas is over, no more long hours baking for others, no more garland over my home's lovely arches, no more severe destruction of my kitchen while making Christmas candy for gifts. One week the Santas were standing sentry in the lawn, and the next week they vanished. Bleak midwinter sets in.

But they're back! The Santas are out again, and this year, there are more, many more Santas and Snowmen and candy canes and lights! Drive a couple of miles north of Vienna and you'll see it, too, the jolliest house in all the Ozark Highlands!

While I've always really cherished Christmas time, the nights spent writing long winded cards to people I never see anymore, baking cookies for the neighbors whose names I don't know, wearing red and green together because even though they're opposite on the color wheel, you can get away with it in December, I've grown sentimental towards Christmas since moving here. Here, of course, is away from friends, family, a piano, parties in the Faubourg Marigny, Meyer lemons and satsumas and outstanding Reveillon meals that last until 2 am.

So, I've thought about the Santa Army in Vienna all year.

Back in February, I attended a conference with 200 people I had never met before. I sat down with a plate of cheese slices, an egg that was intended as garnish on a salad of iceberg lettuce, and a heap of carrots right next to someone who didn't look like he would bother me while I ate. I guess I asked this unassuming chap where he was from, and when he volunteered "Vienna," I grabbed him by the shoulders and asked him frantically, "tell me about the house with all the Santas!"

He couldn't offer much in the way of information but that the local newspaper (it's a very old newspaper with a really strange name that I can't remember tonight...) once ran an article about the family with all the Santas. According to the second hand account of the guy who grew up in Vienna but lives in Osage Beach now, and who probably didn't read the article with the same fervor that I would have, the family "collects statues, and every year, people give them more. It started out as a way to commemorate their children: one Santa for each kid, but the Santas just kept coming..." The result is really delightful. I especially appreciate this year's alignment of about 8 Santas, all standing guard over the rest of the herd.

But it's not just about Christmas at this house. During October, the same yard hosted about 20 large single-lightbulb-illuminated pumpkins, jack-o'-lanterns, and black cats. There may have been a smiling ghost in the mix.

My year long desire to meet this family remains in place. I'd feel awkward and rude introducing myself to a Christmas house without pumpkin bread or divinity, and every time I'm driving through town I'm due somewhere north or south at a given time. So, now, entrenched in my mind is a mythology of a charming retired couple who probably have Fostoria candy dishes with cinnamon disks and those big recliners covered in taupe velour and a space for a remote control, a chair perfect for an old man to lean back and visit about spring turkey season or what's wrong with this country or maybe the meaning behind this charming collection of Santas that makes me smile every time I crawl through Vienna.


Anonymous said...

very cool; but I prefer my collection of nutcrackers though.

Allison Vaughn said...

No way! Cruel that you'd write that and not tell me where. I love nutcrackers....have a few really menacing ones holding maces and gnarly weapons with faces like Genghis Khan.

Ted C. MacRae said...

I've thought about those Santas ever since last year's post. I'm almost tempted to buy a Santa somewhere, drive down to Vienna, and leave it there in hommage.

We have an old farmhouse about a mile down the road where a very elderly couple begin just after Halloween the job of putting out all their Christmas yard decorations. There must be a hundred individual items by the time they finish - snowmen and reindeer and shepards and baby Jesuses all in a marvelous jumble. Its homemade, unsophisticated quality is so much more endearing that all the professionally-lit McMansions that litter the surrounding hillsides.

all my best--ted

Anonymous said...

deep in the woods of Douglas County; however, mine are all of the indoor variety..

Allison Vaughn said...

I bet they're both really cool...