Many of us have childhood memories of the perfect Christmas. Some of us remember the tangible things — our favorite gifts and holiday treats. Almost everyone remembers the intangible. Joy, faith, peace, hope, tradition and togetherness are all things we hope to feel again and again. And, many of us strive to instill those values and memories in our children. Because with them, we get to experience the miracle of Christmas through new eyes.
We often celebrate Christmas with established family traditions. Parents with small children find themselves revisiting past rituals from their own childhood while also creating new, special customs. Even many empty-nesters end up immersed in the Christmas spirit with their adult children and grandchildren, as if time has stood still.
And, on the days following Thanksgiving, many of us turn on the Christmas music, enlist our elves and begin to show our excitement and appreciation for the Christmas season through holiday decorating.
This year, two Windsor Heights families began their Christmas decorating routines as usual, but took the extra time to reflect on some of the personal and precious traditions that make this season so special.
A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree
Without fail, Tony and Channon Timm choose a Christmas tree with their children every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. They always start the journey with high expectations, because not just any Christmas tree will do.
“We are picky about our tree,” Channon explains. “We like them tall and big.”
Ironically, this year the family had to settle for the shorter and skinnier version of their dream tree when they discovered their preferred tree hunting destination was highly picked over.
It gave everyone a good laugh and most likely a new family memory.
“I guess now we’re still in search of the perfect tree farm,” Channon admits. “But, we have been to several in the area.”
Tony and Channon’s children, Charlie and Sophia, still managed to have a blast decorating this year’s Christmas tree with mom and dad. They love to help put the lights on and find themselves sidetracked every now and then to reminisce about the special ornaments they receive yearly.
“I purchase an ornament for them each Christmas that represents that particular year for them,” Channon says. “When they are older and out of the house I’ll pass those ornaments on to them to have for their own Christmas trees.”
Charlie likes his “I’m the big brother” ornament — a gift from his parents the year Sophia was born. Sophia’s favorite says “Colorado,” a reminder of their family vacation.
When Channon was a child, her mother started a similar tradition with Precious Moments Christmas Thimbles. Channon received a new addition to her collection every year until the items were discontinued. She then began collecting Precious Moments Christmas figurines.
Charlie and Sophia also helped mom and dad with the outdoor lights this year — a new tradition for the family. Because the house is brick, the Timms just recently found clips to help secure the lights and plan to continue adding to their exterior decor.
Tony and Channon now look forward to Dec. 25 because of the excitement it brings their children. The entire family wakes up together on Christmas morning and gathers with local extended family later that day. They celebrate with their out-of-town family on a few occasions throughout the month of December.
Nine-year-old Charlie says time with family is his most-treasured tradition. Naturally, 4-year-old Sophia’s favorite thing about Christmas is Santa Claus.
The holiday season can be a particularly emotional and reflective time for the Timms. Channon is the program services coordinator for Children’s Cancer Connection and Tony is the executive director for Central Iowa Shelter and Services. Seeing pain and suffering firsthand reminds them just how fortunate they are to have their health and a roof over their heads.
“It’s hard to see sick children spend the holidays in the hospital,” Channon says. “I’m always reminded to appreciate our active and healthy children.”
But the triumphs Tony and Channon witness at work are often times nothing short of miraculous. Both are incredibly grateful to have the chance to make a positive difference for others.
The Timms want their children to look back on each holiday season and remember the fun, family memories and their time spent together.
They enjoy telling Charlie and Sophia the story of how their journey as a couple began.
“Tony and I got engaged around the Christmas tree,” Channon says. “We were decorating this tiny tree and we decided there were way too many ornaments on it. We started taking some off and Tony pointed to one I had missed — it was a ring hanging from a hook.”
And the family’s quest for the ideal Christmas tree? Well, there’s always next year. The search is all in good fun. Initially the 2014 Timm family Christmas tree didn’t meet expectations. But today, it’s dressed up beautifully.
And, it’s still upright, which isn’t always a guarantee at their house.
“Last year our tree fell over the day after we decorated it,” Tony laughs. “We had a mini waterfall coming out of the tree stand. We managed to get it back up, but it was crooked for the rest of December.”
It’s a Wonderful Life
Greg Mauk’s favorite film is the 1946 Christmas classic “It’s A Wonderful Life.” And for he and his wife Karol, what a wonderful life it has been. The couple has celebrated 33 Christmas seasons in Windsor Heights. Within six months of being married, they bought their first home in the area and have remained in the community.
“When we expanded our family we moved from Windsor Heights to Windsor Heights,” Greg says. “We really enjoy the area. It’s fun to live in a small community with local activities and services, but also have the vibrant Des Moines metro area.”
Greg and Karol set the scene for the holidays both on the inside and outside of the house. Karol has a passion for decorating, and that, mixed with their love of Christmas, has made this an enjoyable, lifetime routine for the couple.
“Karol is management, and I’m labor,” Greg jokes.
The house is adorned with two large artificial Christmas trees. Karol finds that this helps separate the gifts for each side of their large family.
The Mauks enjoy hosting family for Christmas. And although their two children, Steven and Renae, have grown up and left the nest, Karol still recalls many years of frosting cookies and tree decorating with her children.
“I’ll also never forget seeing them fly downstairs to see what Santa had brought them,” she says.
Renae still returns home every year to help decorate the Mauk family winter wonderland. The indoor displays, keepsakes and greenery are breathtaking. Both trees are decorated to the max with tasteful lighting and of course, the couple’s many ornaments. The Mauks have cumulated a massive collection over 33 years. Karol can recall many of the ornaments from memory. She fondly remembers the first ornament Greg gave her in 1979, which proudly hangs on the tree in the couple’s den.
Greg’s favorite display sits atop the fireplace. It’s a replica of the village of Bedford Falls, the home of George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” In fact, they have a great deal of Christmas memorabilia from Greg’s beloved movie — ornaments, throw pillows, artwork and figurines.
The spirit of Christmas is alive in every room of their home, but last year the Mauks gained the most attention for their outdoor lighting display. The Windsor Heights Foundation deemed Greg and Karol’s home as a district winner of the annual outdoor lighting contest — a nice surprise for the couple.
The Windsor Heights Foundation Annual Lighting contest looks for balanced and uncluttered designs, creativity, minimum use of plastic, hand-crafted elements and a display that looks well both during the day and night.
The front of the Mauks’ home is aglow with white lights, greenery and bows. The second floor windows are illuminated with candles and the living room Christmas tree shines through large picture window on the first floor. The lighting in back creates an illusion — at night, the bushes appear to be floating.
“The outdoor lighting has stayed fairly consistent,” Greg says. “We really just light our home for the enjoyment of family, friends and neighbors. But, it has been fun to be recognized by the Foundation.