Christmas is the highlight of the year for Bob Reffner, who says, “I just love Christmas.” And it shows in the extent he goes to in making the Reffner home the personification of “Deck the Halls ...”
Everything says Merry Christmas as you drive by the Mountain Brook house. Decorations on the trees outside change colors as they dance to music, the blow-up figures give a hearty welcome, and the nativity scene brings it all together in celebrating the season.
Reffner and his wife, Annette, have been doing this some 30 years. Reffner, who served as a substitute teacher at Cleveland Middle School, also worked at the Cleveland Daily Banner for six years. But the greater number of his working years was with Hardwick Clothes.
Since reaching the 70s, each year he says, “I think about not putting everything up, but ...” And every year, it seems to get bigger. This year, 12 trees went up in the Reffner home — each one different.
He gave a tour of the “ready for Christmas” house. One tree welcomes visitors at the base of the garlanded staircase. Opposite, Dickens Village gleams on a “snow-covered” table, which is also graced by a nativity scene. To the right is the dining room which boasts a white tree with gold and burgundy balls — a tree they have had 24 years. And nestled against the wall is a vintage Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus beside a fireplace — all bought as a Coca-Cola promotion about 28 years ago. This is the special attraction for the Reffner grandchildren.
The festive grandfather has animated toy characters surrounding the living room tree. They include dancing snowmen — one who playfully drops his pants to show a message — and Rudolph the red nose reindeer serenades everyone as he plays a little piano. Another miniature piano sits on the top of the real piano, played by a little man in tails. Tiny song sheets are on microchips and when the music is placed on the lyre, the pianist obliges with his rendition of 12 melodies.
The family room jumps with three trains circling another village, which includes churches, houses and shops, as well as a train depot, people, carolers and a village square nativity scene. The trains are another favorite of the grandchildren, but equally fascinating to all ages. Reffner has nine sets of trains with more than 100 cars. He begins putting the trains together the middle of October and by the first of November, the other decorations start coming out. The outside decorations are ready to turn on by Thanksgiving Eve.
The tree, fireplace and cabinet in the family room are all decked out with greenery and lights to give a country Christmas air. Even the TV is programmed to play Christmas music and movies for family enjoyment during the holidays and the kitchen decor, also, says Merry Christmas.
In a guest bedroom, a fiberoptic tree glows under the watchful eyes of a dozen or so stuffed dolls collected by Mrs. Reffner. Another bedroom is definitely decorated with the grandchildren in mind — three trees and three bears. Two trees stand in the dormer window of another bedroom, adding to the outdoor display. A smaller tree in the master bedroom serves as a nightlight, also.
When it’s time to turn out the lights after the holidays, decorations — not the lights — come off the trees, and the smaller ones are moved into a storage closet upstairs. The larger trees have to be broken down and they have their own containers for storage.
The train tracks are taken apart and the villages disappear until the next year. He has a system — so organized, that when October 2013 arrives, the trains will began running again and the lights will come on as the Reffners wish everyone a Merry Christmas for the 30-somethingth time.