Norman Rockwell became an American treasure during his decades of painting clever illustrations depicting the simple country life. The Saturday Evening Post frequently used his art on their covers as did other magazines. Dying in 1978 at the age of 84, his work is recognizable today with its witty look at the past.

In September 2018, my friend, Judy, watched a documentary featuring Norman Rockwell and the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts where he moved in 1956. He lived there throughout the rest of his life.

“We need to go to their Main Street at Christmas celebration!” Judy announced. “Its going to be held the first weekend of December. It’ll be like his painting, “Home for Christmas.”

The Red Lion Inn is the large white building on the right side of the painting.

Closing my eyes, I saw it in my mind. A light sifting of snow covering the buildings and cars of a 1950s era. People dashing down the snowy sidewalks in their warm coats and gloves. Little bits of red knit hats catching the eye. A tranquil scene of a chaotic season.

“A Norman Rockwell Christmas!” I said with awe.

Another friend, Pat, a wizard at travel arrangements began to work on our trip plans.

To get to the tiny town of Stockbridge, we flew into Boston. From there, a two-and-a-half hour bus trip would deliver us to the The Red Lion Inn where we had reservations.

Then Pat came up with one of her amazing ideas.

By pooling our bus ticket money, we could arrive at The Red Lion Inn on Friday afternoon riding in an elegant black car from a limo company. The same car and driver would pick us up three days later for the return trip to Boston.

As we arrived in Stockbridge, we pulled up at the side of the wooden Red Lion Inn. Built originally in 1773, it burned to the ground in 1896. Rebuilt the following year, it looked then much as it stands today.

Even though the fire consumed the building, a cool thing happened. As the flames and sparks flew into the sky, the townspeople pulled much of the furniture out of the burning building. Some of those same pieces grace the lobby and rooms of the Inn today.

From outside, the hotel was charming! Inside, it was like a comfort food.

The resident cat lazed around in the lobby as if he owned it.

A Christmas tree took center stage with antique furniture arranged inviting guests to sit and visit in the comfortable lobby.

Claw–footed tubs waited in readiness in bathrooms connected to the old-fashioned bedrooms.

The warmth and quaintness screamed of A Norman Rockwell Christmas card.

Stockbridge’s modern library, found in one of the town’s refurbished buildings, was a short walk from the Inn,

At their annual Christmas reading, members of the community dressed in hats to portray players in the holiday stories they shared with the audience.

Stockbridge Library

Saturday evening, after a day of wondering the town and taking in the holiday house tour, we dressed in long underwear beneath our heavy winter clothes and followed a path from the Red Lion to the First Congregational Church for the annual Christmas program. Even wearing gloves, my fingers felt the sting of the cold air as we carried lit candles and sang carols.

A nostalgic feeling of my 1950s childhood filled me with flickering pictures of the time. In my wishful imagination, a Norman Rockwell type of Christmas floated as if it could have been my family gathered around a tree covered with lights and glass balls and dried pine needles.

The next day, Sunday, several 1950s cars parked along the street in front of The Red Lion Inn where four Victorian Carolers sang from the Inn’s front porch. Light rain didn’t discourage the crowd from enjoying the replication of Rockwell’s 1956 painting, “Home for Christmas.”    

The town’s 29th celebration made me long for those simple times of A Norman Rockwell Christmas.

Even though those days have passed, I hope your holidays are filled with the homey feelings of love and gratitude.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. Barney’s 22 days of Christmas are about at an end. Yesterday he helped himself to his own treat for the day. He snitched it right out of a friend’s purse! Go Barney.

What’s your idea of a great Christmas?

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