Janet Combs

Janet Combs

I am drawn to the sparkly, the shiny, some might say the gaudy.

The Planet Janet Historical Research Department purports my brain function was chemically altered, pointing to that summer 15 years ago when I sat at the kitchen table for hours, hand-gluing more than a thousand Swarovski crystals to my daughter’s ballet competition tutu—but I think not.

My mother liked rhinestone earrings, a tasteful row of beaded sequins bordering a dress neckline, a good Christmas sweater. I associate these pops of light with wonderful memories; of being around age 9 and lying on my parents’ bed asking my mother a gazillion questions while she got dressed up to meet my father after work for dinner and a Broadway show in New York City. What’s eyeliner? Can I try it? Why do you have to wear a girdle? Will I have to wear a girdle? What’s the point of a slip? Why can’t I go to the show? Is Rosemary going to babysit? Can I have perfume?

My recollection is that my mother, an elementary education teacher, patiently answered me. I’m certain this is not as warm a memory for my mother as it is for me, but that is how it goes for mothers—we create shining, lasting memories for our children in the moments when we least expect to.

As I grew, I learned that shiny could be synonymous with cheap—both in clothing and home décor, so I shied away from it. Mostly. But I couldn’t help myself at a local Christmas shop last weekend. I was browsing in local boutiques with my sister-in-law, who was visiting for the weekend from Florida. If you need a shopping partner, may I recommend my sister-in-law? Ydnas, whose name has been spelled backward for privacy, is that rare combination of discerning, decisive, and encouraging. After five minutes in a shop featuring overpriced resort wear, I could simply glance at her above the racks, and her eyes would flash me the signal, “We’re out of here,” saving us both time and money.

“Thank you!” she’d chirp briskly and politely to the salespeople; we’d exit and move on to the next shop. We both lingered in the Christmas shop, finding several cute, one-of-a-kind ornaments and stocking-stuffers. Several times, I passed by a lone shelving unit displaying charming wintry scenes encased in bronze, lantern-style holders—somewhat reminiscent of snow-globes, but softly lit with glittering, iridescent snow. In-depth investigation taking all of 40 seconds by the Planet Janet Online Holiday Shopping Team reveals these are called “Water Lanterns.” There are angels, snowmen, Santas, nativity scenes, and bright red trucks against stands of deep green pines. They don’t exactly say “South Carolina,” much less “Florida,” but they sure say “Christmas.”

After checking out, as we were advancing toward the exit, I glanced back at the shelves of glowing lanterns and remarked to my sister-in-law, “Ydnas, I just keep coming back to these!”

Ydnas about-faced to stop and stare at them with me.

“They’re kind of mesmerizing,” I said.

“They are,” she agreed.

We continued staring at them, frozen in place, unblinking, like Christmas zombies.

“Couldn’t you just picture yourself, sitting in front a fire in a dark room, gazing at one of these?” I said.

“I could,” she said, simply. Other customers gathered.

“I’m not a salesperson here,” I declared, “but, really, you have to admit, these things are just so, so… captivating. So beautiful,” I gushed.

It seemed the other patrons had caught the true twinkling spirit of Christmas, as we noticed several of them picking up the water lanterns to check out their prices. Ydnas and I picked out two that appealed to us, and returned to the register.

The next day, we went back and I purchased a second one, because I realized I need two on my fireplace mantel. ‘Tis the season to let your light shimmer.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Contact her at www.janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.