Saturday, December 8, 2007
Hello In There
Driving home the other night I realized something about Christmas (pardon me, Holiday) lights. Sure I like to see them appear this time of year and even look forward to the first sighting. It's usually sometime before Thanksgiving. Some folks have the "contest winner" mentality and go for amount, volume or stunning effects. Growing up in La La land, the yearly cruise to neighborhoods to view these competitions was always a part of the celebration. But that's not what gets me. I question the motivation of many of those folk. Some are religious, some wealthy, some driven, and many are drifting progressively away from any holiday at all. What I especially like are the houses that suddenly sport a simple string of lights. Sometimes it's a small tree or electric wreath, or perhaps just a colorful star or silvery icicle display. Somebody has taken the time to light the dark. Rolling through the neighborhood I traverse on late Wednesday evenings, the houses are usually so dim and sullen. This week, with the addition of a few lights, and I really mean just a few, they had a very different appearance. The lights were calling out, "Hey, someone's livin' here." These modest decorations say much more than I'm celebrating the holiday now. They remind me that I'm not just passing houses in the night, I'm passing people, families, households.
One year I went for a walk alone on Christmas Eve in the neighborhood I knew from childhood. I must have been about 15 years old and just wanted to walk up and down the street while my parents entertained some folks. It was a particularly cold winter and even in the San Fernando Valley there was frost and visible breath. By the time I got to the end of the street I turned and looked over my shoulder and noticed that every home on Bonner Ave. was colorfully lit. I squinted. The colors bled in the cold night air. I promised to lock that image in my mind forever. So far I have. I've locked all the folks within those homes there as well.