FINLEY POINT — Christmas isn’t a one-and-done kind of holiday for Sandy Davis.
She had enough of that growing up.
“When I was little, the tree went up on Christmas Eve and it came down on the afternoon of Christmas Day,” she said. “There weren’t any Christmas decorations either. There just wasn’t room for it. The couch touched the chair that touched the end table that touched the door. It was crowded in there.”
Davis was one of six siblings who grew up in a “tiny" house in Maryville, Indiana, where she learned the value of a dollar and developed an appreciation for having the kind of elbow room needed to turn an annual holiday into a months-long event.
Those fortunate to find their way over the hill and through the cherry orchard to Davis’ front yard on Flathead Lake’s Finley Point should be ready to enter a place where Christmas lives.
Her friends call Davis’ home The Christmas House.
The holiday comes early here.
Davis starts to feel the need to slip downstairs and bring up the first of 100 or more boxes packed full with Christmas decorations about the time others are carving pumpkins and getting their costumes ready for Halloween. She’s not ready to put them away until others are picking out cards for their favorite Valentine.
Even before that October day when she first begins to decorate the inside of her home, Davis has been hunting for that perfect new addition to the thousands of decorations that she’s already proudly purchased for a quarter here or a dollar there at secondhand stores in Montana and beyond.
“I’ll tell you what, it’s like a treasure hunt,” Davis said, standing inside her home where every nook and cranny is filled with holiday decorations of all styles. “All year round, I’m looking for Christmas.”
And she’s looking for a good deal, too.
“See those little trees there?” she said, pointing over in the corner. “I got those for 75 cents at a secondhand store.”
It took her three years to find all the colorful reindeer plates currently being stored in a drawer.
“I found them all for $1,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye. “The last one I found was Blitzen. It took a long time, but I’ve got them all, even Rudolph. I don’t know where I’m going to put them yet. I’m starting to run out of room.”
This year the garage still holds boxes filled with decorations that she’s yet to sort through.
“I’ll be decorating all the way up through Christmas Eve,” she said. “I’ll probably end up changing things around, too. I just want everything to be just right.”
Follow Davis around her home and she’ll tell you stories about where she first spotted this decoration or who gave her that one.
Take, for instance, the dozen cheerful little moose that have found a home this holiday in Moose Corner.
Her daughter, who lives in Philadelphia, spotted those while walking past a dumpster a few years back. She knew right away that they would fit in with her mother’s eclectic Christmas collection.
“She’s my daughter,” Davis said. “She knows what I like. Everything in that corner cost less than $2. Every now and then, I’ll find something that I really have to have and I’ll spend $2.50.”
Sometimes she’s even willing to spend a little more than that.
She’s all smiles when she points to a couple of Woof & Poof dolls for which she paid $4.99 apiece at a secondhand store.
“When I got them home, I noticed this little button that said Woof & Poof,” she said. “So I looked it up and discovered that she was worth $135 and the others were worth $85 apiece. I didn’t know they were valuable. I just knew that I liked them.”
As she walks by a little tree covered in little ornaments, she picks up a little bell and gives it a shake.
“My favorite movie is 'It’s a Wonderful Life,' " Davis said. “This little bell has the same tune.”
She walks by a wall filled with pictures of Santa.
“This just makes me so happy,” she said as her gaze dances from one picture to the next. “I call this the Santa wall. Every single picture has a Santa in it. I’ll spot something at a secondhand store or a garage sale and I’ll say to myself, ‘I know exactly where that’s going to go in my house.' "
Out in the kitchen, a clock begins to play “Joy to the World.”
“It’s a Christmas clock,” she said. “Of course, it plays Christmas music.”
Davis means to count all the lights and Santas and trees, but she’s been kind of busy making sure that they all get safely inside.
“As best as I can tell, I’ve got 80 Santas, but if you count all the pictures, it’s probably closer to 190,” she said. “I think I have about 28 trees and somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 to 3,000 lights inside.”
Davis knows that every one of the Christmas decorations that ends up in her home comes with a story that she’ll probably never know.
But once in a while, she gets an unexpected gift.
Awhile back, Davis was shopping at the local Walmart when she noticed an elderly woman who appeared exhausted.
“You could just see she was tired of walking,” Davis said. “She was kind of leaning over her cart and looking down the aisle.”
Davis walked over and said, "Hey, how you doing?" She learned the woman was interested in looking at some ribbon, but was feeling a bit beat.
“I told her I could go get if for her,” Davis said.
And so that’s just what she did.
When Davis returned, the two started talking. Before long the topic turned, as it often does, to Christmas and the woman mentioned that she had gotten rid of all of her decorations. Of course, that caught Davis’ interest.
“What did you do with them?” Davis asked.
The woman said she had taken them to a secondhand store in Polson last year and she mentioned a set of gold-framed pictures of Santa that she especially liked.
“So I took out my cellphone and scrolled through the pictures I had taken inside my house to those gold-framed pictures of Santa that I’d hung on my wall,” Davis said. “When I showed her, she said, ‘You got my pictures.’ ”
And then she gave Davis a hug.
“She was so happy that her pictures had ended up in a place where they would be loved,” Davis said. “I invited her to come over and see The Christmas House someday. I don’t think she ever will, but she was happy when we went our own ways.
“I wish that people had the Christmas spirit all year around,” she said. “I usually start getting it sometime in September and I keep it until about February.
“I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs,” she said. “This is my bad habit. If you’re going to have a bad habit, it might as well be something like this. It has a way of making people happy. I really like that.”