Mother decorates home in daughter’s memory

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 28, 2009

After a significant loss in the family, Mary Manny wasn’t sureshe could decorate her home in top-to-bottom Christmas gear likeshe has every year since her children were young.

In the end, it was not only the spirit of the season, but of herdaughter Kelly Steinert, that kept her going and enabled her to getthe decorations she has loved all her life put up throughout herhome. Steinert was found shot earlier this year in ColoradoSprings, Colo., and her death is still an open case, Mannysaid.

“It was hard for her to do this, but she’s gotten every singleroom done, and the outside,” said Manny’s daughter ShelleyGriffith, who encouraged her mother to go ahead and put up theChristmas trees and decorations in every room in Steinert’smemory.

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The hard part was doing it without her daughter who used to takesuch pleasure in helping put up the decorations, Manny said.

“We do this every year, and she was supposed to come home forThanksgiving and Christmas, and I didn’t know if I could do it,”she said. “My daughter Shelley said, ‘Mama, you know you’re goingto decorate,’ and I said I don’t know if I could do it this year,but something lifted up my spirits. I felt like the spirit was withus, I don’t even know how I did it.”

And with Griffith’s help in the flesh, and Steinert’s help inspirit, Manny got her home decorated.

The living room is a maze of presents and lights, animatedfigurines and Christmas villages, including an almost life-sizedSanta that sings Christmas carols. Manny said the day care studentsshe keeps in her home sing the carols with Santa, as do her familymembers when they all gather on Christmas Eve.

Meanwhile, each year the tree in the main room, or the”Christmas room” as the children sometimes call it, has to be alive tree, even if it means a two-hour drive to Columbia to pick itup.

“I won’t accept anything but a live tree in here,” she said.”When I can’t find a big fresh tree, that’s where we go.”

Manny admits that though she has several traditions, and thereare decorations that have been in the family for more than 20years, she tries to vary where things go each year.

And her children have different memories of the decorationsthrough the years, like the year when Griffith found a Christmastree decorated with nothing but $100 bills in her room when she wasa teenager.

“She didn’t have much to say about that,” Manny said,laughing.

So on Christmas, about eight families, including that of herthird daughter Sherry Burns of Alexandria, La., will gather in theManny home, and will celebrate the holiday that Manny has lovedsince she was a child.

“I didn’t even get to really have Christmas until I was 16,because we were poor, very poor,” she said. “I wish I could’ve seenChristmas through these eyes.”

But that said, Manny shows off her favorite Christmas shirt, onethat says, “Jesus is the reason for the season” on the back.

“Because he is,” she said.

Everything from the little Christmas villages to the animatedSantas and bears to the stockings for the children, grandchildren,and great grandchildren has its own box. and at the end of theseason, it all goes back to a special walk-in attic that Mary’shusband Steve Manny built for her seasonal decorations.

It will be mid-January before it all begins to be packed up, andthen the Mannys will begin to prepare for other seasons. Manny saidChristmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Halloween – whatever the occasion- she likes to have decorations to put out to celebrate theholidays.

And, she said, she’s glad she let Griffith talk her intodecorating this year, not just for Steinert’s sake, or for her own,but for her family’s.

“I cried and cried, I don’t know how many tears it took to putthis house together,” she said. “But it’s got to go on, because Ihad three girls and they were my life. I’ve worked two or threejobs so they could have Christmas when they were little. I justdidn’t want to let my girls down.”