Jim Mains is best known for his Christmas displays, but he wanted to do something different to commemorate the victims of COVID-19
VANCOUVER — If you’ve lived in Vancouver for more than a few holidays, odds are you’ve driven past the house of Jim and Ceci Mains. The green two-story home on Franklin Street, across from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Parish, is well known for its festive holiday setups, including a 40,000-light Christmas display.
“We had many people send us messages on our Holidays on Franklin Facebook page asking if we would consider putting our Christmas display back up during this time,” said Mains.
Mains said they considered it, then decided to take a different approach.
“We thought this might be a little bit better, to do something a little more personal, a little bit more connected to our community,” Mains says. “Where people could come and see the scale of what’s happening here just in our state.”
To do that, Mains and his 5-year-old son Remington began hanging green ribbons along the fence out front. One for every life lost to COVID-19 in the state of Washington.
“Sadly, one of the first deaths in Clark County was someone from our neighborhood,” Mains says. “And so I think that was even more of an eye opener — that this event isn’t something in King County or Snohomish County, but this is something right here in our county that’s going to be affecting all of us, possibly for a long time.”
Mains, who is a partner and director of strategy and campaigns for High Five Media, owner of mainDISTINCTION (a polling and data firm), as well as executive assistant for the Ed Lynch Estate and vice president of Identity Clark County, says he’s been keeping incredibly busy during the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Jay Inslee. But the daily ritual of cutting and hanging the ribbons has helped keep him focused on the personal element of the outbreak.
“It’s just been overwhelming and heartbreaking hearing what some of these nonprofits are going through,” says Mains. “And, you know, everybody in some capacity, whether you’re business owners, nonprofit, in our community, across the border, it’s affecting everybody.”
The process of creating and hanging the ribbons also served as a way for Mains and the people walking by to get a tangible sense of the cost of COVID-19 in the state.
“A few days ago, gosh, I think we did in one day, like 48 ribbons,” he says. “It’s very overwhelming to look at the fence now.”
In addition to the ribbons, Mains and his son added 50 flags from countries around the world.
“It kind of hits home that it’s not just our state. It’s not just our country, but it’s the whole world that’s been affected.”
Mains says initially they were putting the ribbons up in the morning, but now it’s a ritual he and Remington do before bedtime.
It has also offered the opportunity for the 5-year-old to try and come to grips with the scale of what is happening outside of the yard in which he now spends most of his time.
“His cat passed away about a year and a half ago, and he understands that the cat’s in heaven, and my parent’s dog is in heaven,” says Mains. “I think It’s hard for him to understand that these are people who are no longer with us. But we do talk about it.”
And, he adds, he’s hopeful other parents will drive or walk by with their own children, and strike up a conversation about these 500-plus green ribbons, the flags, and the fact that even a long fence is now too little to contain them.
“You’ll hear a young girl, like on Easter, who said, ‘oh, look at all the pretty ribbons,’” Mains recalls. “And then her mom was like, ‘they are pretty but,’ but then she goes on to explain what it means.
“We don’t actually want more ribbons.”