Growing up, there was only one house that decorated on our block. It was just how it was in 21208 those days.
I did get to see lights every year, though. We’d all load up in the car and my dad would drive us to Towson or Timonium or someplace out that way so we could drive through the beautifully lit neighborhoods. It took my breath away. The cold air and the sparkly lights. It was so peaceful. So pretty.
I know that there’s more to Christmas than shopping and commercials and incessant emails trying to get everyone to buy more stuff. I know that the holiday has deep meaning for so many. I just feel lucky that I get to enjoy the sparkly bits. Thanks for sharing. Really, I mean it.
And though Christmas is not my holiday, I do have two Christmas memories to share.
In college, a friend invited me to his parents’ house for dinner and to decorate the tree. I could barely wait. He and his parents were shocked that it was my first time. (They evidently didn’t know a lot of Jews.) I’ll never forget how they gingerly laid out the ornaments and chose the placement of each one so carefully. It was really sweet. It was clearly a special family time and though it was lovely to be included, I felt like an intruder. An outsider. Interloper. But here I am, more than 30 years later and I can picture the generations-old red and white painted santa on a sled that I was honored to put as the finishing touch on the tree. I can remember exactly how that made me feel.
And I remember that when my friend’s father died a few weeks later that I couldn’t shake the fact that they’d never have Christmas together again.
A few years later, I worked in a big advertising agency and had a wonderful friend and co-worker there. I was young and single. She was a couple years older and married. She and her husband had been through a terrible time; they’d had an overwhelming loss. The stress it had put on the relationship was more than they could handle and he’d moved out. But before he did, he’d smashed their Christmas ornaments in spite. The ornaments that they’d bought for each other every year they’d been together – each precious one carefully and meaningfully selected. Smashed.
And if that isn’t sad enough (and I’m tearing up remembering her face as she recounted the story), when they got back together, all that lovely history was gone. I wondered if she’d ever forgive him for that part. I’m not sure if she ever did.
Symbols are just symbols, right? Traditions are just traditions. But we attach so much to the traditions and symbols in our lives that it’s hard to separate the things from the people from the memories.
And that’s why I love seeing the shiny Christmas lights. The sparkle of it all brings back the time in the back of my parents’ car and the adventure and the cold and the wonder.