Each year, Linda Bryant adds a few more Christmas trees to the ones that she has decorated and displayed throughout her home for the holiday season. Each year, Bryant also opens her home to family and friends to allow them to enjoy her many Christmas creations.
In 2000, Bryant only had 20 trees decorated and displayed in her home for Christmas. This year Bryant’s tree count is up to 31.
Beautifully decorated trees of all sizes can be found in every room of Bryant’s house. Some of the rooms are lucky enough to have even more than one.
Putting up all the trees is a tremendous task, one which Bryant needed help with.
“I just couldn’t get it all done by myself this year, and I was afraid that it just wasn’t going to happen,” Bryant said. “God, I asked you for a miracle, if I was to share this with the community, you would send me some help.”
Hector Martinez works for Bryant and her husband Don part time, doing yard work and odds and ends around the house. Martinez, who has three children and works the swing shift at Milliken, was the one who saved Bryant’s annual Christmas tree event.
“Hector came over to me and said, ‘let’s go for it.’ He gave me a hug and said, ‘Merry Christmas, I enjoy this as much as you do,’” Bryant said. “If it hadn’t been for him, this little Christmas miracle would never have happened.”
Although Bryant decorates each of her trees by herself, she needed help in the actual setup, and stringing of the lights on them. Each of the artificial trees she then decorated with a specific theme and color scheme.
All of Bryant’s guests enter her home on the lower level. Most of the guests are regulars, having made the touring of the Bryant home part of their yearly Christmas celebration. For the regulars, Bryant greets them and then challenges them to locate and identify the new additions to the collection. For the first-timers, Bryant personally escorts them through the house explaining the story and inspiration for each of her trees.
During one visit, 9-year-old Jordan Perrotti and her mother, Lyn, were greeted at the door by Bryant.
“Hello, Merry Christmas. Come in, see if you can recognize the new trees,” Bryant said. “Tell me which one is your favorite.”
Jordan and her mother were soon also joined by another four of Bryant’s regulars. Gerri and Mike Jones, Joan Mappin and Jo Kirby were all eager to see this year’s Christmas decorations.
Different individuals, who know how much Bryant enjoys sharing her love for Christmas, and her life with others, have helped to either collect, make or arrange the items that Bryant uses to decorate her trees and home.
“Miss Emma Truitt contributed those watering cans that I used under that tree and the bird houses and nests that are on my new ‘Bird Tree’ this year,” Bryant said.
James Harris made a new base for one of the trees while his wife, Sue, made a new skirt for another.
Jerry Bray supplied all of the camellia flowers that adorned the rooms while Jerry Rigby was responsible for the dinning room table’s centerpiece.
Omar Martinez, Hector Martinez’s brother, also pitched in to help with putting up some of the outside decorations this year.
Bryant gets inspiration in decorating her trees from different people and events from her life. There is a Mardi Gras tree that was inspired by her husband’s Army buddies. Joy May gave Bryant the tree that is now decorated in candy kisses and the 100th anniversary of the LaGrange Woman’s club inspired the “Shop ‘till You Drop” pocketbook tree.
Bryant has minded and worked with children for the past 37 years and has decorated some of her trees to reflect the love she has for them. One tree in Bryant’s special “My Life” room has pictures and crafts from the children. Little 3-year-old Zachry Mattox, who Bryant currently watches, has a tree that was especially crafted with his pictures and artwork. There is also a tree that has angels that a group of autistic children made out of Coke cans.
Cody Foster, who Bryant use to mind and now attends college, brings her a piece of his artwork each year to add to her collection.
In the same room, prominently displayed in one corner is a tree that is decorated with ornaments that one of Bryant’s dearest and oldest friends had made for her. Lena Piercy made an ornament for each of the 50 states, that was 26 years ago. Bryant uses the ornaments to decorate what she calls her “Bi-centennial” tree.
Bryant also receives help from her neighbor, Sherri Taylor,who assists in letting people know that the house is ready to be viewed and also with welcoming and entertaining the guests.
After going through all of the rooms on both floors, Jordan Perrotti and her mother had decided which ones were their favorite trees. Jordan’s favorite turned out to be the very first one that she saw as she walked in, the”Fun in the Sun” tree, the one with the Hawaiian theme. Her mother’s favorite one was the beautiful tree in Bryant’s bedroom that was decorated with brightly colored peacock feathers.
At the end of their visit, Geri and Mike Jones thanked Bryant and expressed their delight in her creative decorations.
“You mean so much to so many folks,” Gerri Jones said. “The house is just beautiful.”
“I think you got it just perfect this year, you could not do any better,” Mike Jones said.
Decorating all of the trees and her home each Christmas is hard work but it is how Linda Bryant celebrates the season each year.
“I truly believe if you are meant to share it, God works with you,” Bryant said. “I do this to give back to the community, but I could never do this without them.”