Robyn Shanks, Dora Wilson's granddaughter, one of the major helpers who start in October decorating inside the house, in the yard and on the rooftop, faces a serious illness in her family. Her paternal grandmother is literally "living on borrowed time."
All of her family deemed it inappropriate to have the traditional lavish party this year.
Heretofore, Dora Wilson's house teemed with family members, friends, church associates, neighbors and out-of-town visitors.
All of them could not believe their eyes when they beheld enough food to feed the multitudes and such breathtakingly beautiful and elaborate interior decorations.
The house always smelled of dozens of loaves of freshly baked bread, which Dora gave to the many who dropped by to wish her a Merry Christmas. The kitchen, dining room, living room and sun porch also reeked of freshly baked pies, cookies, cakes and various casseroles.
Always there was entertainment. "Kentucky Rain" played in the living room for over two hours last year. In previous years, the Harlan Barber Shop Quarter sang their especially arranged carols.
All this amid such beautifully lavish decorations as to defy description. Martha Stewart would be "shocked" at the sight of such beauty in such good taste in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky, an area in the country so often characterized by its bleakness and backwardness.
There is nothing backward surrounding Dora's large two-story house dripping with twinkle light icicles cascading from the roof. The interior could hold its own with a Park Avenue penthouse.
The yard has over 35 lighted displays including: Rudolf and Santa, Frosty, toy soldiers, a Nutcracker, a nativity scene and much, much more.
Sightseers come from miles around to drive by the house at night to enjoy the many stand-up figures. The figures are there as usual; it is the party which has been canceled.
Dora's generosity with regard to Christmas giving equals that of Santa Claus. When various church choirs come caroling, she gives each child a gift and each choir a cake.
Nobody goes home empty handed.
All of these many preparations take a great deal of time, work, planning and coordination. The party's popularity has gradually grown over the 30 years it has become an annual event.
The atmosphere surrounding the traditional party is as jolly as Santa himself. In her 80s, Dora is the center of attraction and life of her own party. She has, however, undergone serious surgery in recent months and has been unable, she said, “To do all the things I have always done in the past."
This year, unfortunately, is sadly different from previous years. Illness has simply called a halt to tradition while hearts are heavy and anxious for what tomorrow may bring.
Dora regrets having to cancel the party, because it is such fun for young and old alike; so enjoyed by so many; so looked forward to by neighbors and friends. "Fun as usual," however, is simply not appropriate at this Christmas season.
Each year an Enterprise photographer takes a group picture which is framed and hung on the sun porch wall. There will be no 2008 photo.
Dora's party will hot take place this year.
Everyone who normally attends will be saddened because of the serious circumstance which has caused the cancellation. They will understand and will be keeping Robyn Shanks, her paternal grandmother, Dora Wilson and all of the family in their prayers.
In spite of the illness and sadness surrounding the holiday season, I wish Dora Wilson and Robyn's family a blessed Christmas.