November-December 2015 | TREES OF TRADITION




Bill and Debbi Anderson decorate their Wicomico County home to honor generations of family heritage

Written By: Brian Shane | Photographer: GRANT L. GURSKY

Forget having just one Christmas tree. One isn’t enough, not for Debbi Anderson. How could she show off her family’s massive collection of ornaments, chronicling their life’s travels, with just a single tree?

Last Christmas, Debbi had three trees. This year, she’s looking at four, possibly five, if she and husband Bill can manage to fit a 10-footer in their foyer.

In their five-bed, five-bath home, Debbi finds room to decorate. The nearly 5,000 sq. ft. home sits on a 40-acre horse farm, off Spearin Road, outside Salisbury.  

Debbi and Bill have accumulated their collection of tree decorations over 25-plus years, from destinations and homes across the U.S. and Europe.

“I like things that have a memory and meaning behind them, our roots and our adventures in life,” she said. “I couldn’t tell you how many because I’ve never counted them. The living room tree, that’s probably two boxes. The family room is at least another box.”

It starts on the front porch, with a tree adorned only with lights. Then, in the family room, it’s always a fresh, locally cut tree, probably about 8 feet tall. The family room tree holds all the ornaments of her family history. Her favorites there are those made from her daughter’s school photos.

Over in the living room, a 7-foot artificial tree is the Andersons’ designated “patriotic” tree. It’s a newer tradition, one they took up when Bill got a job as an assistant secretary to the Air Force in 2005, overseeing installations and logistics, while they were living in the Washington, D.C. area.

Bill isn’t a career military guy but was instead appointed to the position by President George W. Bush. Before that, he had worked as a corporate attorney with General Electric. That job had sent the couple to Belgium for three years, where they also accumulated special tree ornaments: A hand-blown glass ornament from Germany, a hand-painted crescent moon from Spain and an ornament crafted from Belgian lace.

The patriotic tree, featuring ornaments honoring all branches of the military, is important to Debbi and Bill because both their fathers had served in the armed forces. Debbi’s father was a military policeman in the Korean War, while Bill’s father served in the Navy during World War II.  

“It’s something that represents our families, particularly our fathers and their service to our country,” she said. “It represents everybody who loves their country and wants to give something back.”

One new household tree this year is going into a retrofitted closet Debbi now uses as a dressing room. The white artificial tannenbaum matches the room’s black-and-white décor and will be adorned with whimsical “fashionable” ornaments, featuring clothing and shoes. Everyone who knows Debbi, she insists, knows how much she loves shoes.

Christmas is so important that Debbi has found ways to incorporate the season for her granddaughters, ages 2 and 3, who live across the country. They visit during summers but not at Christmastime.

“[They] live in Bellingham, Washington, so we don’t get to see them often,” she said. “So I started doing Christmas in July. I put a tree up and presents under it, and we’d do beach ornaments like seashells. This way, when they come in the summer, they would remember something special with us.”

The Andersons’ holiday décor encompasses more than elaborate trees — they have plenty of stockings, too.

Bill’s is a camouflage stocking, a nod to his Air Force job. Debbi’s is shaped like a shoe. One for daughter Shawna, who runs their horse farm, has animal print. Holiday-sweater-themed stockings are hanging for her and Bill’s mothers, who always join the family at Christmas. 

The final stocking, hung by the chimney with care, is for Malibu, the family’s 10-year-old chocolate Lab, who gets doggy treats for gifts.   

“I want people to feel very at-home and comfortable when they walk in our house,” Debbi said. “I love Christmas because it’s a time when family and friends gather, and everyone enjoys being together and having all those memories.”


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