Mile Marker 50 Mile Marker 50 Mile Marker 50 Mile Marker 50 Mile Marker 50

It’s a Wonderful Life…

1024 768 Mile Marker 50

The twinkling lights on the Christmas village illuminate the front window of my parents’ small home. Stepping inside from the cold Indiana air,  I am greeted by the colors of the tiny buildings resting on a blanket of indoor snow. 

The sight of my Father’s Christmas village has always been a source of comfort for me, the signal that our annual family celebration is near. It is a sign that soon all of my siblings and I will be laughing and talking over each other while our children run through the house. It means my mom will be cooking a feast that we will be talking about until this time next year.  

Seriously, aren’t they the cutest? For the record we eat all of that roast! Our family is so big there are no leftovers!

Tucked away in the corner of my suitcase is a new piece to add to the Wonderful Life Collection. I can’t wait to see the look on my Dad’s face when he opens it. It’s the moving van and another car from the Christmas classic. The pieces are hard to find these days and my Dad knows it. It was a good score!

The collection began innocently enough as a nod to my Dad’s favorite movie. For as long as I can remember Dad watches the movie every Christmas. Now, grandkids who live nearby pile up on his lap to watch it with him. He shushes everyone in the room when it comes on. There are no special effects to hold their attention but my father’s excitement is mesmerizing. The black and white film rests only on the story of a man who feels burdened by the heaviness of life and struggles with his choices. Yet, the story of hope draws them in. 

The last time I watched it with my Dad, I watched him more than the movie. Now I wish I was home in the weeks before Christmas to watch it with him again. I know there will be a time when he isn’t around to watch it. The thought makes me cry. 

It’s a Wonderful Life has become my Dad’s personal mantra. He believes it to be true with all of his heart and wants all of us to believe it too even in our darkest hours. 

Mom and Dad even have a sign over the kitchen sink that reads ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ to remind us of this philosophy year round.

Every year, the village is painstakingly erected… twice. The first time is usually my Dad and a few grandkids. They have little patience for the actual design but love spending time with Papaw, as they call him. They place the houses side by side in a tidy row with trees in locations trees would never be. There is no regard for the aesthetic but the excitement of unpacking each piece and the laughter that follows the conversation as it takes shape is more important for the moment. When the grandkids have gone, mom and dad lovingly move pieces here and there until everything looks “more real” as my mom would say. No one seems to notice the pieces have been moved as each grandkid admires ’their work’ every time they enter the home.

At night, the tiny lights inside each piece give a glow to the room, lighting a path to the bathroom should we need it in the middle of the night. It’s a beautiful sight. A tradition that makes my eyes tear up as I marvel at the love, purpose and patience behind the village. It is a quiet and yet powerful statement, very much reflective of the kind of man my Dad is.  I love the little grin he gets on his face when he looks the village. I wonder what he’s thinking about.

This year, there is more to the joyful tears that pool in my eyes. There is a lump in my throat. A sadness I can’t shake and hate to admit. What will happen to the village when my Dad isn’t here?  Will we carry on this tradition? I hate that the thought even crossed my mind. Will we divide up the pieces feeling closer to Dad through each ceramic mold? Will my mom still want to put it up? Will it be too painful for her?

The village has grown in size over the years, just as our family has. I’m sure at one time or another each of his 6 children has given him a piece or two for the village. This year mom needed to add a second table in the living room to hold it all. We joke about the size, wondering if we will still have a place to sleep when we come visit next Christmas.

As the house fills with laughter and the kids begin to run around, I know for certain that Dad is right and that we are getting his message loud(in my family, very loud!) and clear. It is a wonderful life and for right now, that’s all I need to think about.