It’s the third week in December. Christmas is almost a week away. It’s cold outside. Freezing actually. Snow covers everything in sight except the highways that have been cleared.
As children we can’t wait for Daddy to get home from work around dusk. Tonight is the night he’s promised to take us to see outdoor Christmas decorations.
We are too excited about our annual outing to be hungry. But we aren’t going anywhere until we sit down for the evening meal.
After eating and helping to clean up the kitchen we grab our coats and head for the garage. Climbing into the family car we imagine how many roads we’ll travel this evening.
Every December my father would ask his co-workers who lived in the villages and small towns around us where the best outdoor decorations were located in their neighborhoods. As we drove the rural highways, pulling off the main roads into small communities, he would tell Mother which of his co-workers lived on that road.
I never paid any attention to their conversations. My mind was too occupied with what I could see out of that back window. This was before blow up Santas and store bought wire skeletons covered with lights in the shape of reindeer or angels.
There were occasional displays of lighted plywood pieces cut and painted as snowmen or angels but the majority of the decorations consisted of large colored bulbs strung along the roof lines and decorating outdoor evergreen trees in people’s front yards.
We grew up and moved away. But we tried to time our vacations to visit my parents at Christmas. By then Wheeling, WVA (driving distance from my parents’ home) had started putting on a Festival Of Lights. There are lighted displays of all kinds on over 300 acres along the six mile drive through the park. Some years I would take photographs but most years I just sat awe struck admiring all the wonderful displays and thankful that our holiday tradition continued.
My parents have passed away. We’ve visited lighted displays in other cities. But nothing compares to those freezing cold nights, wrapped up in big coats, mittens and boots, sitting in the back seat of the family car with our noses pressed against the window glass and the sight of Christmas lights being reflected in our childhood faces.