Christmas Cheer in a Desolate Land

The Eastern Shore of Virginia is particularly desolate in late fall and winter.  On our drive back to Virginia from Connecticut yesterday, the fields were devoid of vegetation, leaving a dry, dusty landscape with a heavy ceiling of grey clouds.

Even in its bleakness, the Eastern Shore has a beauty all its own.

Every time we drive through the Eastern Shore, my husband and I wonder why people would choose to live in such isolation.  There are no cities there, no shopping, upscale restaurants, theaters, or universities.  The only industry we’ve seen there are the chicken farms of Mr. Purdue and Mr. Tyson.  The workers are largely Hispanic, and along Route 13 several iglesias and tiendas can be seen as well as a couple of taquerias.  What other things people find to occupy their time remain a mystery.  It is not a place you would casually go to for the day to explore because there isn’t anything to see and it would cost you $12 for a trip across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel each way, unless you came back the same day and got a discount on the return trip.  My husband said once that the Eastern Shore of Virginia is a place to go if you don’t want to be found. I replied, “That explains why people live here.  They must be in the witness protection program.”

In spite of the lowliness of so many of the houses, I noticed on our drive back on Sunday that nearly every abode, whether it was a farmhouse or a shack, had some sort of Christmas decoration on it.  The most common were wreaths.  I even saw a tractor with a wreath on it.  I wanted to stop and take pictures, but every time I saw a little place with a Christmas decoration on the door, we were already past it.  “You want me to turn around?” my husband would ask.  But I knew he was anxious to get home, so we kept on going.  He did turn down a side road so I could get a few pictures of the landscape, and I managed to take a picture of some Christmas swags by the entrance to a farm.

I thought of how I used to love putting up a tree when the kids were little and decorating the house in preparation for hosting 25 people for Christmas dinner.  Now that the children live far away and nobody comes to see the house decorated anymore, the decorations have dwindled down to nothing.  As we continued down the road, I remarked at how everyone, regardless of their circumstances, took the time to show their holiday spirit and it made me feel all the more Christmasy.  “But not enough to decorate our house, huh?” my husband asked.  “You know my new motto,” I replied.  “If you don’t put it up, you don’t have to take it down.”

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About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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29 Responses to Christmas Cheer in a Desolate Land

  1. Pingback: Beautiful Desolation « From Here to Bulgaria

  2. Robin says:

    I’m not familiar with the Eastern Shore of Virginia, but it seems somewhat similar to what I’ve seen of the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

    I’m not big on decorating anymore, either. One year I didn’t put up a tree at all. I plugged in an old lava lamp, called it the Christmas Lava Lamp, and we put our gifts around it. I’ll be putting a tree up tonight, though, since the kids and grandkids will be here tomorrow. Otherwise, it would have been the Christmas Lava Lamp once again. 🙂

    • Coming East says:

      Where can ingetna lava lamp these days, Robin? Point me in the right direction. That is a totally awesome idea for next year and every year after that! LOL! Yes, the Eastern Shore of Virginia is similar to the one in Maryland, but I think it is even more desolate, if that is possible.

      • Robin says:

        You can get them just about anywhere lately. Target and Amazon have them online (Amazon has a pretty good selection). I think we bought ours at Spencers at a mall somewhere, back in the day where that was the only place selling them. After leaving my comment, I got to thinking about how I really enjoyed having a Christmas Lava Lamp rather than a tree. I may reestablish that tradition. 😀

      • Coming East says:

        I used to have a bluish one when they became popular in the early 60’s. Thanks for the info.

  3. Well, we still haven’t gotten a tree. Everyone keeps telling me they have “no time” between work and homework. Loved this post – the isolation and the decorations.

    • Coming East says:

      Well, Kelly,mimthink you should just forget the tree, if it’s not important enough for them to take the time for it. You can bet they’ll be too busy to help you take it down!

  4. Since my kids are still in college/grad school, they usually come home for holidays — this year both will be home for over a week, one for almost 4! It will be wonderful to have them home, but I can’t begin to decorate until they’re here to join in our traditions. I imagine you and I will cross somewhere along an interstate since we will be passing through Boston on our way hither and thither! Keep your eyes peeled for a nondescript white station wagon with Maine plates! 🙂

    • Coming East says:

      I’m so happy for you, Julia, that you will have all that time with your kids. I will be traveling in a nondescript dark grey Mercury Montego with Virginia liscence plates. Wave to me.

  5. Mama's Empty Nest says:

    Just last night Hubby and I went on a little shopping excursion and on our way home we had fun looking at the Christmas lights and decorations dressing up people’s houses. Last year, I didn’t care if I did any decorating, but this year, hubby and I did it together and we’re enjoying the tree, the lights, and the Christmas village we brought out of hibernation. We feel blessed that our kids will all be home for Christmas Eve. But I agree, what a pain taking everything down come January!

    • Coming East says:

      If our kids ever came for Christmas, we wouldn’t even have any decorations to put up, Mama! I don’t see us hosting Christmas again, sadly. Now my youngest son and my daughter-in-law up in Boston are the hosts. It’s wonderful, though, so I’m okay with it.

  6. Leah says:

    Beautiful photos and description of how it feels these days. I love your header photos! Where is that?

  7. Dor says:

    Your post was so entrancing Susan! Driving along through that gray, bleak landscape, with breaks of merriment as you passed houses with decorations. We love to drive around our little town and surrounding area at night just to see all the different personalities reflected in the holiday decorations. Thanks for sharing.

  8. pattisj says:

    I have the same motto, Susan. I think it comes with the empty nest. Our tree has finally made it to the living room, and awaits the new lights we purchased for it. And we still have a week to get that done! lol

  9. winsomebella says:

    I have not decorated for three years but for some reason I wanted to put up a tree this year. I think it has to do with living near my 2-year-old granddaughter. I kept it very minimal, not like the old days. It felt good.

  10. Margie says:

    Last year I put my Christmas tree up in December and took it down many months later. I love how it looks with it’s cheery lights – makes the long winter evenings so much brighter. We don’t have nearly as much company out here as we used to, but I decorate for me – so I can see all the memories that are stored with the decorations!

    • Coming East says:

      I gave my Christmas ornaments to my youngest child when he got married, Margie, so I don’t have any to decorate a tree with even if we wanted to put one up. But I get to see those ornaments when we go to Boston at Christmas. It’s so nice to see them on my son’s tree now.

  11. This summer we went to the Eastern shore of Virginia. It was indeed desolate. There didn’t seem to be anything but farms and not much else. We drove for miles and miles and found nothing. It was pretty though. Taking down the decorations in January is the worst part of Christmas. I hate having to put everything away.

  12. Big Al says:

    Hi East. I’m a relative newcomer to your blog but have enjoyed your writing. We live in Charlottesville, but my wife and I have a lot of history in Virginia Beach. We met there when I was in the Navy and have a house in Bay Lake Pines along shore drive. We rent it mostly, but will return for good once our granddaughters here are a bit older. Still go there quite often though.

    Anyway, I was struck by this article. I have had those same feelings every time I travel the eastern shore. I go up once in a while to play the Bay Creek golf courses (the oasis in the desert) and can’t believe the isolation in that area. That lone farmhouse picture captures it perfectly. But like you say, every place has its own kind of beauty and so does the eastern shore if you just let it “come to you.”

    Very nicely written blog.

    • Coming East says:

      Thank you, Big Al. Nice to have a neighbor for a blogging friend! We travel up and down that Delmarva peninsula quite often because our sons live in Boston, but the loneliest portion of that trip, and the part we enjoy the most, is Virginia’s eastern shore. Glad you recognized how representative that picture is.

  13. Last night, I drove my daughter to her dance class and noticed the pretty Christmas lights were few and far between. Once in awhile we’d see a house all decked out, but I suppose most people have maybe cut down this year. We are lucky in that the road we live on, all the neighbors around us have loads of decorations up (we do too, of course, having kids helps!)

    • Coming East says:

      I love driving through neighborhoods and looking at the lights at night, but I’d rather look at other people’s decorations than to have to put them up myself. You are so right about getting more involved when you have kids.

  14. Shary Hover says:

    I thought I might avoid the post-holiday blues by not putting up decorations, but they got me anyway. So now I’m back to decorating and doing my best to enjoy it. My January blahs will have to take care of themselves.

    • Coming East says:

      Now that we drive up to Boston for Christmas, I don’t feel bad not decorating because we’re not even here to enjoy it. It sure helps with the January blahs, Shary, not having to take down the decorations and put them away. That always made me a little depressed and reminded me of how long it would be before I got to see the kids again.

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