I miss the days when all the lights had color and they were big. They had heft. I’m not sure who decided that tiny white lights hung from every window looked like icicles or snow, but they don’t. They’re just boring.
As a child, that was always my favorite part of Christmas – the lights. Back then you didn’t have every estate and park and suburb draping themselves all over and synchronizing the lights to music, and then charging $5 admission (all going to charity of course). The lights were fewer and far between, and that made them seem more special.
The weekend before Christmas we’d always do what I now call our “Whirlwind Tour” of the state, covering about 500 miles and hitting both grandparents’ houses in two days. We’d drive back roads (less traffic) and often late into the night. Everyone would be asleep except Dad and me. I’d be looking for lights.
The stretch along Route 17 was good for this. Often the lights would appear as you went up a hill, a little oasis in dark sea. Twinkling, screaming, “I’m here!” We’d drive closer and I’d stare, not wanting to miss a minute. Sometimes it would just be a string or two, thrown over the bushes or winding itself around a tree. But sometimes you’d see a light-up nativity or a reindeer or Santa. The old plastic figures that lit from within, nothing inflatable here. And these little tableau were so far from the road, so you’d have to really keep your eyes peeled – blink and you will surely miss it. And all the lights would be multicolored – like a carnival in the desert.
That was the best part of those long Christmas trips. I remember the car being so cold, to me the entire world was cold and dark. The only sound would be the car and Dad slapping his cheeks to keep himself awake. But then every so often a little pond of lights would appear across the pasture of a farmhouse on some back road somewhere and it would make you smile. It’s Christmas!
One display stood out from the rest – so much so that I would beg Dad to take Route 1 home instead of I-95. The car would climb this certain hill just after Massaponax and it was like the whole world exploded. The entire house was outlined in lights, nativity in the yard, Santa, Frosty, everyone was there.
That’s the one great house I remember. Now those kinds of displays were everywhere. But as far as I know, at least in that part of Virginia, that was the first. And the best.
One last thing, whatever happend to the candle lights that everyone used to put in their windows? You know, the plastic plug-in kind? Some of them even “flickered” like they were real. I haven’t seen one of those in years. I was always impressed by those who had a candle or candle “pyramid” in every window in their house, even the sides and back. Now that’s dedication…