My Holiday Decoration Scheme

Or Jesus, Cats, and Trans Kids

My neighborhood of Manchester on Pittsburgh’s Northside is having a holiday decorating contest.

We have a lovely row house, built in 1872, but no outdoor electrical outlets so our decorating has always been limited. Putting things inside the windows is risky business with cats. And the windows are tall so things tend to fall into their greedy little claws with ease.

A few years ago, I acquired a few inflatables and put them in the backyard to make my wife smile. I also acquired a wire deer with lights and a 1970’s era two-foot Nativity set complete with 1970’s era plugs. I put them out on the back deck because I wouldn’t dare risk plugging them in anywhere.

I’ve put out a call for as many cats as my neighbors will give me – stuffed cats, statues, and so forth.

When I learned about the holiday contest, I had a bit of inspiration. The day we had inherited the Nativity set, it was in our living room and I turned around to see our cat sleeping in the manger. He broke it so I quickly replaced it with a cat bed as it seemed fair enough for the Baby Jesus to displace said cat.

So my goal now is to create a manger with a message in front of our house. I bought some solar fairy lights and inserted them into Mary and Joseph both of whom have holes conveniently predrilled in their bases. So far, so good. I put out the manger with the help of zip ties. I then intended (and still do) to add cats. Surely there was a cat in the stable? So I’ll be adding a winter shelter for cats, bowls, some straw, and as many cats as my neighbors will give me – stuffed cats, statues, and so forth. I put the Halloween cats up on the window ledge and fastened two of our “Proud Pittsburgh Community Cat Folx” yard signs behind Mary and Joseph – that made me chuckle.

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Then I stepped back to take a photo and saw it. After I removed the election campaign yard signs, I had left one other up – Protect Trans Kids. It ended up being right above the Baby Jesus in his battered old manger held together with gumption and zip ties.

It is far from finished. I’m lacking cats (ha!) because we have a surfeit of teddy bears in this house. So I’ve put out a call. I also have a small outdoor lit tree that I’m trying to figure out how to add. The tree in the corner used to be rainbow – it was a gift last year and proudly stood on our stoop all year long until I went all DIY on it for Halloween and painted it black and gold.

So this isn’t what I imagined and it isn’t finished, but it is moving. My heart breaks a little each day as I seem to learn of more and more trans kids struggling to find their way. People destroying our signs, accusing our supporters of vile things, dragging me down paths I’d rather not revisit right now. So many things falling apart, events not working out, plans coming undone, and seemingly so many people just taking each other for granted. I can’t even count how many people have left projects undone these past weeks, treating my time like it means nothing to them. That’s time I could spend helping people, I think. And it just so overwhelming.

So this little tableau is comforting to me. I’m not a fan of Christianity, but I am a Catholic girl. I’m not interested in fixing institutions built on violence, oppression, and trauma. But I am interested in reinterpreting symbols to reflect truth.

What began as a little joke for me to try to win a contest as one of the neighborhood cat ladies has turned into something more joyful.

Also, I have COVID again and thus Sue Kerr Day has been completely ruined. Sigh.


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