ENCINITAS — The North Pole may have Santa, but North County has Diane Beyer, who lives 3,940 miles south in sunny Encinitas. The grandmother embodies the yuletide spirit with her infectious holiday cheer and style.
“I start wearing my Christmas costumes the day after Thanksgiving,” she said, chortling. “I shop at Trader Joe’s dressed like an elf.”
Diane has five costumes, 30 blouses and T-shirts, 70 pairs of earrings and 80 pairs of socks for the holidays.
She has a 12.5-foot-tall, year-round Christmas tree in her family room decorated with more than 3,000 Hallmark ornaments. Diane keeps the tree looking fresh by spraying each ornament with canned-air and wiping individual, stringed bulbs by hand.
Several years ago, when her kids were young, Diane accumulated more ornaments than her tree could hold. That inspired her to hand make miniature trees, each with a theme that today reflects her love of cats and dogs, Peanuts characters, cartoons and the kitchen.
Diane has so many Christmas decorations that her husband, Pete, built a small house in their backyard to store thousands of figurines, ornaments, stockings, stuffed animals, bed and bath linens, throw rugs, garlands and miniature trees in the off-season.
“I was getting too old to bring it all down from the attic,” he said, wryly.
The couple has an informal comedy routine that adds to the holiday spirit. Diane plays straight-man to her husband’s “long suffering husband” shtick. His lines are as polished as her Christmas ornaments:
“I’m always moving because if I stand still, I’m afraid she’ll decorate me.”
“When Diane turns on the house lights, the mall lights start to flicker.”
“When she leaves for a trip I say, ‘Don’t be gone too long, honey. I’m going to be putting some of your stuff up on eBay.”
Pete described how when the couple lived in Michigan, he would stretch an outdoor electrical cord from his house and lay it, unplugged, by the neighbor’s. “My neighbor would say, ‘Why is this here?’ I’d answer, ‘Ohhhhhh, no reason. . .well, I have to save money (on the utility bill) somehow.”
Kathleen Wallace is manager of Elam’s Hallmark in Encinitas where Diane puts new Hallmark ornaments on layaway after their preview in July.
“We have a good time when Diane’s in the store because she’s always smiling and laughing,” Wallace said. “Since her ankle surgery, Pete has to come later in the day to pick up what she bought. Diane will say, ‘Don’t tell my husband what’s in the bag.’”
Pete hates to admit it, but he’s not really a Grinch. Every fall he encloses their patio and transforms it into Santa’s workshop where Diane makes her garlands, cuts holly and performs other tasks in preparation for the holiday season.
Diane said she gets her Christmas spirit from her mother, Mary Waem, who never let the fact that she was a single mom, working two jobs, interfere with her ability to provide a memorable holiday season for her three daughters.
“Christmas was in her heart,” Diane said. “She’d take our old dolls and make them new again by replacing their hair, and sewing new clothes.”
This Christmas will be especially meaningful for Diane with the arrival of her first grandchild, a 9-month girl named Jaden. On Dec. 25, Jaden will be among 28 relatives arriving for holiday dinner.
Diane also puts her unique spin on Christmas Day.
“Christmas is about sharing, not giving,” she said. “We give presents to the younger children, but everyone else exchanges ‘white elephant’ presents which are ‘re-gifted.’ We buy new presents for families that aren’t as fortunate as us.”
Later this month Diane, wearing her elf costume, and her son, Don, dressed as Santa, will make their annual visit to Christie’s Place in San Diego to spread cheer to families living with HIV and AIDS.
“What we should do is to give each other love,” Diane explained. “Christmas should be all year-round.”