Last night, my friend BJ and I made a pilgrimage to Tiny Town, a heartrendingly shabby Yuletide lawn display which, depending on your point of view, is among either the finest or most foul expressions of holiday cheer ever conceived. Each Christmas for 30 years or more, an Easley woman has showcased her collection of well-worn toys – dolls and plastic miniatures for the most part – inside a quarter acre of chest-high huts placed in ranks around her front yard, strung with lights and left to the mercy of the elements. There’s a fire pit and a live Santa and a steady stream of visitors. No admission is charged. It’s a gift … to the neighborhood and to the world.
In Tiny Town, nativity scenes of every description are scattered throughout a landscape dominated by the aristocracy of Chrismas commercialized – Ronald McDonald, Charlie Brown, Snow White, Ken, Frosty, Barbie and a hundred others. It occurred to me that the person responsible might be practicing a kind of voodoo, trying to effect broad social change by marrying sacred and secular elements in poses of forced friendship. (It’s more likely, of course, that she’s just a crazy old lady with no money and terrible taste, but let that go …)
Some of the huts house tableaus – a Barbie wedding, for example – but most of the toys are packed and stacked like inventory, basking in the eerie incandescent glow. The air of decay and the impression of benign insanity reminded this visitor of how strangely inspirational the corrosive influence of materialism can be. Which is why I’ve chosen to think of Tiny Town, not as the ungodly aggregation it seemed at first, but as a pearl grown inside this oyster of a woman at the bottom of the Christmas Sea.