I am a reluctant Over-The-Rhine Holiday Home Tour host. And, here is why:
We have only been in our home for six months. Many decorations from Christmas past we left behind at our former home, or donated to Goodwill. I am working feverishly to put a novel to bed. We have one son, plus a daughter and boyfriend, coming to roost for few weeks. We have family guests from northern Ohio coming arriving December 25th. I fear Christmas, because I will never be able to “do Christmas” like my mother and father did for so many years.
And, I am tired of keeping my home picked up for the random person my effervescent husband meets on the street, and invites in for tour when our bed hasn’t been made. He’s so excited about sharing the history of the home that he overlooks flying dog hair and dirty laundry for the sake of a good story.
Months ago, our neighbor, Ryan Messer, had called to ask if we would participate on a holiday home tour around the holidays as a fundraiser for the non-profit Future Leaders OTR.
I said, sure.
It was September. Everyone says, yes, to offers in September. But life sped up as we escorted one son to college, returned to Oregon for his family weekend, visited one daughter in D.C., and one in New Orleans, and hosted the third at Thanksgiving. I had forgotten about our commitment.
When Ryan called once more, and sent out the reminder email with the dates, I huffed and puffed and fretted and vented. We had waited FIVE years to spend our holidays living in the city. There were a thousands things on our calendar, not the least of which was to watch the Browns take on the Bengals, and attend, for the first time, the Holiday Pops. There is a nephew’s confirmation, and the Mt. Adams Reindog parade. The Santa Con. Light Up OTR. I had penned in so many events, some for which we had paid tickets, the dates for the home tour did not fit squarely into in the boxes on my calendar.
So I asked, Could we participate in only one day, and not two? Could we at least change the time on Sunday? Could this be a timed tour, so we ensure the number of guests and the length of their stay?
I attended the organizational meeting for hosts, fully intending to say, We’re out. No can do.
But, I couldn’t. I couldn’t say, no, to the buoyant director Renae Banks, when she spoke about the young adults in the Future Leaders program and their part in the tour. And what meeting other occupants of these blocks we call home would mean in their lives – and ours. And soon after, I attended a film screening, where I met the Future Leaders, serving hot chocolate.
Prior to the film, I approached one young adult after the other, introduced myself, and asked each, if they would be participating in the tour, as volunteers. Each politely replied, “Yes, ma’am,” and shook my hand. Because I am a visual learner, I asked where their nametags were, would they have them for the tour.
Immediately they ran to Renae, “Hey, we need name tags.” “Can we decorate them?”
In their boisterousness, I realized I didn’t have to offer raviolis or pizzelles, as my mother would have made. And my Christmas lights will not line up in tight formation of red and green, as my father would have tied to shrubs on Lincoln Street. No Peace on Earth will the highway for truckers.
But we envisioned this home, at 1419 Race Street, to be a community gathering place, to preserve the home in order to preserve the history and diversity of OTR, to host events for non-profits we are connected to. Essentially, not only for our home to host, but for we, ourselves, to act as host from which others can grow.
So far, only our son is home, and he’s on Pacific time, so we haven’t seen much of him. And I have yet to hang the homemade ornaments on the tree, unsure if they will make the cut for the tour. My set of three old-fashioned knit stockings, with the set of three stuffed animal stockings that belong to the girls, are still in the plastic bins as is the snoring Santa. I haven’t yet located the Nativity set that each year, at the Christmas Tree Farm, the kids agreed on one addition, until finally there was just one kid left, and then none.
It was never easy to blend traditions in a blended family. Sometimes, we mixed things up. Sometimes, we chucked it all. Perhaps this tradition of home-sharing, will outlive other traditions. Perhaps this home, in perpetuity will always be part of some excursion where the past is pulled into the present.
Perhaps, my parent’s spirit of Christmas will live on, as we open our home, regardless of stunning or meager crowds. We will welcome nicks and scrapes on the wall, if it means we have reached together with the young adults of Over-the-Rhine, to create a viable future for them, our neighborhood and likewise, the city. A few angels will grace our front stoop in the form of Mom and Dad, and possibly, even ancestors like Charles Mueller, the original owner, will greet guests in true Over-the-Rhine fashion.
Photo Credit: Dee Wiley