It’s a Wonderful Life

Lantern Snow

December 5, 2014

Phew… it is finally done. Okay, almost done. We have been decorating Belle Grove for Christmas for the past three days. Thank goodness two wonderful volunteers came to my rescue on Wednesday or I would not be as far as we are today. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate Tammy and Claire for sticking with me and getting the major part of the decorating done. Next year ladies… we will be ready!

I am also very thankful to Oakbrow Plantation (just two plantations downstream from us) for allowing us to come and cut as much greenery as we have. Belle Grove Plantation is a huge undertaking when it comes to greenery. It allows us to remember past Christmases at Belle Grove when they used fresh cedars and hollies to deck the halls.

We are also very thankful to Mason Florist in King George, Virginia for starting our Christmas decorating off. They were here the day after Christmas to decorate the Formal Dining room. It was their design that truly set the tone for the rest of the mansion. We are still amazed at how beautiful that room really is!

We opened for our Christmas Candlelight tours yesterday and thankfully we didn’t have anyone show. We still had a few things to do and frankly, after being on my feet for two days straight, I was beat. Honestly, I can’t tell you what I had for dinner and don’t remember going to bed. But at least I had the chance to sleep in this morning. I think I clocked about eleven hours of sleep.

We have only a couple more things left to do to finish our masterpiece in decorating. The Riverside Balcony stands undone at the moment. But it will get its dressing in the morning. I need to run out and grab one more rope garland to stretch across the width of the balcony. Then I just need to hang the two swags and wreath. Then we are calling it done.

You should see this mansion! It is beyond beautiful! We have almost all the rooms decorated. There are seven fireplace mantles that are decorated in different themes. The Grand Hallway is a sight to see! With the Christmas tree to greet you and the beautiful garland flowing down the stairs.

In the library we have our Santa collection. I have been collecting Santa dolls for about fifteen years. Each year it is my mission to find that special one to join the group. But it can’t be just any Santa. His face has to “talk” to me. And the details truly matter. I look for glasses or special clothing or just something to set him apart. No, I don’t do the silly Santa dolls that are dressed as cowboys or fisherman. I have already found this year’s Santa. You can see him in the Grand Hall when you enter. He is on special display until another comes to take his place. Who knows, I might find a second or even third this year. The last two years I didn’t find any that I liked so I am due!

But you know, with all this decorating and running around, it still doesn’t feel like Christmas to me. It isn’t Christmas until I see “It’s a Wonderful Life”. There is just something about seeing that movie that gets me in the mood for Christmas. I don’t know what it is. It wasn’t like I watched it as a child with my family. In fact, it didn’t start until our kids were almost grown. But now, after watching it so many times before Christmas, I don’t seem to feel the “spirit” of Christmas until I see George Bailey running through the town of Bedford Falls calling out “Hello” to all the old buildings he once took for granted.

I bought the DVD about five years ago. The day after Thanksgiving, we would pull down all the Christmas decorations and spend the day putting things up and watching the movie. My children grew to hate the movie so much that one year the DVD went missing. But don’t worry, I replaced it.

But things just haven’t seemed to work out for me and the movie over the last two years. Two years ago, my mother passed away at the end of November, just before Thanksgiving. With Thanksgiving, then her birthday on December 3rd and then Christmas, it was just too much for me to handle. My family was so wonderful at that time. I asked for one year, not to have Christmas. I just couldn’t face it. And because they loved me so much, we didn’t have Christmas. Just a quiet dinner with each of us playing “Secret Santa” for one another. That year, “It’s a Wonderful Life” didn’t come off the self.

Last year, we were here at Belle Grove for our first Christmas. We were so honored to have six ladies from Bowling Green, Virginia come and decorate Belle Grove. So there was no time for me to pull it off the shelf as they worked. I don’t think I got to see it on television either.

This year, we have been pushing hard to finish the decorating and “It’s a Wonderful Life” has been far from my thoughts. That is until today. As I was putting the finishing touches on the decorations and sharing Belle Grove with two tour visitors, it struck me how I just didn’t feel like Christmas. I am surrounded by all these beautiful decorations and I just don’t feel like Christmas. I knew something was missing. That is when it hit me. I had not seen the movie.

So I looked up the television guide to see when it might be coming on. And there it was, Saturday, December 6th at 8pm. No! It can’t be! I won’t get to see this one. We will be busy doing tours from 7pm to 9pm.

So that is when I went to the shelf and dusted off my DVD copy that I had hidden from the children. After tours tonight, we are going to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” together. Just Brett and I that is. I know the children will be happy about that.

But as I sit here, thinking about the movie and the plot, I too reflect on our past year here. We have had such a great time getting Belle Grove going, meeting the endless number of people who have come calling at our door, accepting the wonderful donations to our collection, working with some of the best volunteers in the world and bring together the lost history of Belle Grove Plantation. It is my hope that we have been able to give back all the love, encouragement and support we have received in the last year.

So whether we get tour visitors for our Christmas Candlelight tours or not. I can honestly say, it truly has been a wonderful life.