We can blame my dad for my early obsession with Christmas lights. He wasn’t necessarily over the top with a light display at our house on Cornwall Road, but he made sure the entire front of the roofline and the windows were outlined with large, multicolored strings of big fat lights, Charlie Brown-style.
He also decorated the azalea and camellia bushes, the dogwoods, and the mailbox.
Our modest Christmas tree was always set up on a table in the den so that its full glory shone through the window facing the street.
He was less concerned about spending extra dollars on the electric bill than he was about having enough lights for the neighbors to enjoy. He said the lights were for my mom, but he loved them too.
I remember piling into the car during the season to “go look at Christmas lights” – Dad knew where all the good spots were, and we were annual visitors to all of them.
We had such fun on those nights, singing “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night” and “Rudolph” as we drove from one show to the next. It was a joyous time.
When I moved into my first apartment after a divorce, my Christmas tree was a ficus plant with one string of white mini-lights. It was, by far, the most depressing display I ever had, even with the small red ornaments I hung on it. There wasn’t much joy there.
The next year, I returned to my roots and bought a “real” tree to decorate. My roommate and I draped lights on the railing of our condo’s patio. It was fun, happy and colorful.
Over the years since, especially after I got married and had children, I’ve been known to go a little crazy with the outdoor lights. (I’ve also been known to decorate seven or eight trees at a time inside the house!) I think it has something to do with being happy.
At this moment, our yard, trees and shrubs are covered with lights. I have long had a healthy competition with our next-door neighbor, whose wife complains every year that “Christmas has thrown up on my house.” (I think she secretly loves it!)
I’m not ashamed to admit I love Christmas lights! In fact, now that the Dove Street lights are back on in the North Forest Beach neighborhood, I’ll be spending more evenings with friends who live there.
Talk about joy! The first light display extravaganza on Dove Street, 30 years ago, was to welcome a new baby to one of the homes there. The dad started by stringing lights in their magnolia tree, assisted by his neighbor. The neighbor also put up some lights, then others joined in, until the whole block was lit up.
Almost 20 years ago, as our family drove through the magical scene, our younger son decided that he must wear his mini-Santa suit on Dove Street as often as we would take him there. Night after night, he joined the big Santa to “ho, ho, ho” and wish visitors Merry Christmas as they drove slowly past. Even at 6 years old, he understood about spreading the joy of the season.
(If you haven’t seen Dove Street yet, make a point to visit any night through New Year’s Eve, from dusk to 11 p.m.)
In other pages of this paper, you will find more stories about folks who light up their homes and neighborhoods with brilliant displays to bring joy to all. Several of those mentioned take the opportunity to collect toys, food and funds for neighbors in need, to provide some Christmas joy for their children.
Wherever you may find it, I wish you many joys of the season.