‘Everybody needs a little sunshine’: Greenfield couple devotes hundreds of hours to holiday decorating

  • Holiday lights on Harrison Avenue in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Ed Laczynski, 67, of Harrison Avenue in Greenfield with his homemade locomotive and track circling an elaborate light display. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Michele and Ed Laczynski of Harrison Avenue in Greenfield with their Santa mailbox. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

News Editor
Published: 12/23/2021 4:30:35 PM
Modified: 12/23/2021 4:30:22 PM

GREENFIELD — It all started with a pair of reindeer.

Twelve years later, Ed and Michele Laczynski’s lawn at 27 Harrison Ave. is covered from one end to the other with decorations, including an estimated 30,000 holiday lights.

“We added something to it every year,” said Michele Laczynski, 66. “We’re running out of space!”

The couple’s favorite decorations, though, are the ones 67-year-old Ed Laczynski has crafted himself. The newest addition is a remote-controlled locomotive on a track and a “Santa House” where it stops. Previous creations include a Santa mailbox, trees made from upside-down tomato cages and a house featuring Snoopy and Woodstock, one of Ed’s first projects.

“So many people stop and say thank you,” Michele said of the community’s support for their efforts, noting that decorating starts the day after Halloween and is usually finished by Thanksgiving night. “People need something, these past two years especially.”

Although Halloween and Christmas are the only two holidays the Laczynskis focus their creative juices on, passersby can often find Ed working under a tent in the summer, bringing the year’s additions to life. Ed, a semi-retired kitchen designer at Greenfield’s Home Depot, takes a vacation week before Thanksgiving to devote full days to decorating, which he estimates takes anywhere from 120 hours to 200 hours — possibly more when factoring in building time.

“There’s a lot to it — a lot of cords and a lot of figuring out different power stations and everything,” Michele said. “The end product is worth it.”

In fact, the locomotive’s origins date back to January, with basic blueprints and plans that Ed unearthed from a 1965 Popular Mechanics magazine.

“I’ve seen a lot of Christmas trains online in different places, so it came to me to build that,” he said.

Ed spends a lot of time Googling, finding basic concepts and improving on them. He then draws on skills he gained by working for a plumbing, electrical and heating contractor back in the 1980s to bring the ideas to life.

The locomotive, for example, involves an electric motor with a battery, and two remotes — one for the motor, and one for the lights.

“That took a lot of research, how to hook that up,” he said. “We had a couple of issues, but we got it straightened out.”

Because the locomotive can come off the tracks, the Laczynskis stay outside when they run it. Next year, Ed plans to add a railroad car that the locomotive will pull, with a Christmas tree on top. A Ferris wheel and carousel are also brewing, Ed said.

In particular, the Santa mailbox, placed close to the road, has been a team effort between Ed and Michele.

Three years ago, “my husband got it in his head that he wanted to do something for the kids,” Michele said. “He built that mailbox on his own, and we didn’t know how it would go.”

In its first year, 40 letters came in, followed by 60 the second year. As of Tuesday night, 132 letters had been received for this holiday season.

“Santa Claus writes a reply to every one if there is a return address,” Michele said.

Michele heads up the responses, with a standard letter that she adds to “if the letter really talks to me and makes me cry.” She also includes stickers, or in previous years, candy canes.

“Sometimes there’s some very sad stories, and a lot of happy ones,” Michele said, noting that some children have asked Santa to revive lost pets or family members. “It gives you a sense of peace to do it for the kids.

“We didn’t know (the Santa mailbox) was going to be as big of a thing as it was,” she added, “but this is a keeper.”

The elaborate display of decorations — which costs about 60 percent less to keep running than in previous years thanks to “a boatload of LED lights,” according to Ed — takes on a special meaning for not only passersby, but Michele as well. The 27 Harrison Ave. residence was her childhood home, where her mother enjoyed decorating the inside for Christmas. Later, when Michele was a caretaker for her father, she would open up the shades so he could enjoy the decorations she and Ed put up outside.

Michele said she has even shared tears with strangers, over the impact the display has had on others’ lives. She recalled one woman she spoke with, who had parked to look at the lights.

“She said, ‘My husband used to love to come over and look at your lights, and he passed away, so I do this for peace.’ She got me crying, we were both crying. To this day, she still drives by,” Michele said. “It’s stuff like that that makes you feel good that you’re doing it, and so many people have thanked us. … Everybody needs a little sunshine, brightness in their lives, and it seems to be working.”

Reach Shelby Ashline at 413-772-0261, ext. 270 or sashline@recorder.com.


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