Christmas magic in the ‘Ditto House’

Published 12:10 am Thursday, December 17, 2020

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By Larry Stombaugh
For the Clemmons Courier

Anyone who is hearty enough on a cold December day to ride, walk or bike on Drumheller Road in the Clemmons West neighborhood will be rewarded with a unique reminder that it is the  Christmas season. The house owned by Norman and Brenda Kaplan features an amazing Christmas display in their front yard that rivals some seen in Christmas movies. The decorations and items featured include Frosty the Snowman, “Olaf” from the movie “Frozen” and characters from “Peanuts.” Added to the eclectic mix are a manger scene, several Santas and a few angels.

The house next to the Kaplans is owned by Beth and Steven Baity. When Norman Kaplan chided his nextdoor neighbor Steven Baity that he was a scrooge for a lack of Christmas decorations in his front yard, he emphasized his point with a lighted sign that spells out “Scrooge” pointed in the direction of the Baitys’ front yard. Baity had a clever response in the form of a lighted “Ditto” sign that points in the direction of the Kaplans’ front yard to cover himself for a lack of a light display by letting his sign do the work for him. The Kaplan and Baity houses have become legendary as a place to go every year for a “Christmas fix” during the holiday season.

While the Baity house that Beth affectionately calls the “Ditto House” is barren of exterior Christmas decorations, the interior of the brick ranch is a Christmas wonderland.

Beginning in mid-October, Beth Baity puts in hundreds of hours to decorate her house for Christmas. “I work on it every day after work and for much of the weekend for several weeks,” she said. The tradition began 30 years ago at Baity’s first home in Winston-Salem when her two sons were young, and she continues to add more decorations every year.

The Christmas lights go on for the first time in the Baity house after dinner on Thanksgiving Day followed by an evening outside with the Kaplans that includes socializing around a fire pit and watching the movie, “Christmas Vacation.”

“We are really good friends,” Baity said of her and her husband Steven’s relationship with the Kaplans. “At first, they were neighbors and friends, but now they are family. Their families and ours come together for the tradition of lighting the fire pit and watching “Christmas Vacation” on Thanksgiving night.”

Regarding her passion for decorating her house for the holidays, Baity noted that “I have an obsession with Christmas. I’m about the meaning of Christmas,” she continued. “I decorate the house because I love doing it. It is truly a labor of love.”

“When people see the ‘Ditto sign’ in the front yard, they have no idea what’s inside the house,” she said. “They would be astonished to see what is inside the house and on the deck.”

What is inside is a large collection of Christmas trees (Baity does not even know how many there are) and hundreds of decorations and display items.  Guests are initially greeted upon entering the house with a display featuring Victorian carolers. The first of the many Christmas trees guests see is with the carolers.

Every room has a theme. The kitchen has been designated as “Santa’s bakery.” Many items are in place to help Santa in his kitchen. The living room has a winter and snow theme and features items that create a calm and peaceful winter setting. The guest room has the theme of “Santa’s workshop.”

The deck has a Christmas tree, and the theme depicted by the items on the deck create a coastal and tropical atmosphere.

While Baity enjoys all of her Christmas trees and decorations, she has the strongest emotional attachment to her “heirloom tree” that is in the sunroom.  That tree has a creative assortment of ornaments that feature many sentimental memories from Baity’s life. “Every ornament on that tree tells some type of a story,” she said.

“That tree is full of many wonderful memories from our lifetime,” she said noting that many of the ornaments came from friends and their children. Also included are ornaments that her now-grown sons made when they were in pre-school.

Her favorite ornament on the “heirloom tree” is one that her parents made when she was two. “I remember sitting at the kitchen table and watching them make ornaments that were made from a kit at that time.”

While it would seem that the years of collecting items to decorate her entire house for Christmas has been quite expensive, Baity is quick to point out that it has not been as costly as it would seem. “The good Lord has blessed me with a creative talent,” she said. “I’ve been able to make many of the things, including some of the ornaments. She also noted that she has never paid full price for any item that she has purchased.

As might be expected, it takes weeks for Baity to take down her Christmas decorations and put them back into storage. Essentially, the house is decorated for about four months of the year, including the time it takes to begin decorating it, and the time involved in getting the house back to its normal state.

Baity is quick to note that she takes up one Christmas tree and puts it away during the first week of January because of the wives’ tale that has been in place for years that it is bad luck to have your tree on display for very long after Christmas day.

When asked how her husband Steven deals with having the house decorated for Christmas for such a long period of time, Baity responded by saying that he actually enjoys it. “I promised him that I would not have the house where we could not have a meal together or where we could not live here. I have kept that promise.”

“The only thing that Steven does not like is the boxes. He’s not crazy about the work involved with them because it takes three days to bring in the boxes of decorations from the utility building.”

Baity noted that when she and her husband are outside in early October that they are sometimes asked by neighbors or others passing by if they will be putting out the “Ditto sign.” More importantly, they are hoping that Baity will once again embark on her amazing decorating project inside of her house.

“I can’t tell you how many people over the years have told me that coming into my home put them in the Christmas spirit during times when they didn’t think that was possible,” Baity said.

While it will be difficult to accommodate visitors this year due to the coronavirus, Baity still enjoyed getting herself and her family into the holiday spirit by decorating her house again this year. She has made it possible to view her decorations with a series of videos that she has put on her Facebook page.

Christmas in 2020 will have a different look, but inside the Baity house on Drumheller Road, it will look quite spectacular as it does every year.