A Front Yard Overflowing with Cheer
Each November 1, attorney Susan Fillion starts thinking about snowfakes and sugarplums. That’s because the day after Halloween finds her dismantling pumpkins and orange lights and hauling out reindeer.
Susan’s front yard in Southside Place, where she’s lived for decades, is teeming with twinkle lights and candy canes, giant dancing bears and angels. Snow, blown out of a snow machine, blankets the entrance to her house. It’s a whole lot of Christmas cheer for one lawn.
“What started it was my mom went to Houston Garden Center in 2007, I’ll never forget, and they had a sale on a reindeer and sleigh set,” Susan says. “She said, ‘What do you think?’ and I said, ‘If you buy it, I’ll decorate.’”
That was just the beginning. “From there, it was, ‘Oh my gosh I need lights,’ ‘Oh my gosh I need extension cords,’ ‘I need inflatables!’ Then, ‘I need some more lights!’
“The first week in November is when I get mobilized for Christmas,” she says. “I start getting all the boxes and sorting through them and putting together the animal decorations, assembling them, making sure the lights are working, counting the lights. I have to be strategic to figure out where everything goes. I start with a Plan A, and then I finish with a Plan C or D or E.”
Everything is stored year to year in storage units. Plural.
How did Susan amass such a collection? “I haunt the stores after Christmas,” she says. “Home Depot and Lowes are great for lights. Hammacher Schlemmer is great because they offer lifetime guarantees.” This year, an inflatable snowman was damaged in the heavy rains we had early in December. “I can send that back to Hammacher Schlemmer and replace that,” Susan says.
“And Michaels has all the unusual stuff you don’t see anywhere else. The candy canes, lollipops, the snowflakes under the front door.”
This vast display does not look like a one-woman job to assemble, but Susan does it herself, with a little help from her family when she’s carrying heavy ladders. “As far as all the lights,” she says, “it’s me. People have called me a monkey in the trees. You do what you’ve got to do, and if you want lights on the trees, you have to get up there.”
Susan had taken a break from decorating since Harvey, and this is her first year back. “You have to have a lot of energy for it,” she says. “But this year, of all years. My mom is 93, and we were talking about it, and with covid, she wanted the lights. I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’”
She takes care to be respectful of neighbors. “That’s the reason my lights and music aren’t on all night,” she says. “It’s a lot of noise, and we have little kids, professionals, so I keep strict hours.”
Although it’s not on display this year, Susan still has the original reindeer and sleigh set her mom picked out in 2007. There was too much competition from other decorations, but Susan promises it will be out again next year.
“When I hear the kids scream in joy so loudly I can hear them [inside], that makes me smile,” Susan says. “A little girl came running from the park across the street up to the snow the other day, and she was so happy. That just makes my heart soar.
“It’s really about bringing joy to people,” Susan says. “I just wanted to create an environment of happiness, even if it’s just for a few minutes, even if it’s just a drive-by.”
The lights are on at Susan’s home on Farbar Street in Southside Place from 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Monday – Thursday, and 5:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. – Friday – Sunday.
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