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Gill house dressed to nines for holiday

GILL — Raising two children alone in New Jersey, Deborah Loomer’s mother would stay up late after her children fell asleep on Christmas Eve to fill the home with decorations.

“We always just had great Christmases. She would always do everything on Christmas Eve, so we’d wake up and everything was all decorated,” Loomer said.

Loomer’s childhood Christmases are reflected in a 5-and-dime-store creche under the television, a collection of lead figurines skating and skiing on a miniature rink and mountain, and other elements among the hundreds and hundreds of objects she uses each year to transform her own home for the holidays.

While others concentrate on outdoor light displays, Loomer sets aside a couple hours each day in the weeks leading up to Christmas to cover every interior surface of her Highland Road home with a collection that has been years in the making.

She began when she married, and her two children grew up with similarly lavish Christmas settings, although she said she doesn’t try to replicate her mother’s Christmas Eve effort.

Every year, 40 crates of ornaments, figurines and wall decorations leave the basement over the course of several weeks to find their homes on tables, shelves, walls, and the traditional two Christmas trees.

Some stay in the basement. Loomer maintains distinct themes for different rooms, and some have on and off years. This year, the living room tree is decorated with hand-made ornaments and the tree in the sun room has a toboggan theme, while the familiar glass globes wait in their crates for next year.

The kitchen is decorated with a candy and gingerbread theme, extending into the dining room with gingerbread trees behind the houses of a miniature winter village on low tables against the walls.

Her grown son’s former bedroom is now a Disney Christmas collection. She figures when she has grandchildren it will be a good guest room for them.

In the upstairs hallway a Christmas village sits in a glass cabinet, on hiatus from the main display this year, and a collection of small elf dolls with evil eyes sit in the open. With a collection collected over 35 years in Gill and inherited from family, Loomer’s collection is a Christmas museum. She points to the elves, inherited from family, as an example of changing tastes in Christmas decorations: the beady black eyes are not at all friendly.

Downstairs, the lead figurines are another reminder of Christmas norms past. Now recognized as toxic, lead was a common material in toy soldiers and other playthings of times past.

On one tree a felted ornament is a memento from a trip last year to hike the Himalayas in Nepal as an early 60th birthday present to herself — her birthday is Christmas Eve — and other ornaments hail from locations as diverse as Rome, Disney World and a Swedish shop near the Jersey shore.

Why?

Loomer’s collection has its roots in her childhood Christmas mornings, but she can’t fully explain her love for the holiday, the only one she gives the full-house treatment.

“I use the word hope a lot and I think Christmas is about hope,” she said.

As a teacher — she retired recently after 37 years as a phys-ed teacher at Turners Falls High School — Loomer said she saw students who lost hope because they didn’t have any conception of the future. For Loomer, it’s impossible not to look to the future at Christmas time, on the verge of the new year.

“I look at Christmas and I look ahead to what else is there out there, the new year starts, and you go ‘there’s got to be something good out there,’” she said. Then again, maybe enjoying Christmas doesn’t need a reason. “And it’s just fun. I don’t know why I like it so much.”

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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