Let there be lights

By E. Adam Porter

 

Everyone has different holiday traditions. Some of us celebrate different holidays, and some of us celebrate the same holidays in very different ways. In my home, one of the traditions we never miss is the annual Christmas Light Cruise.

The premise is simple: load up on sweets, grab the iPod with all the Christmas music on it and jump in the truck. At least, that’s the part the kids see. They don’t know dad spends a couple of days researching, checking out different local community Christmas light hotspots. But that’s okay, they’ll have plenty of time when they’re adults to learn just how involved making Christmas magic every year can be. For the time being, I just want them to feel the magic of the season. I don’t want them knowing how the trick is performed.

For the past few years, our Load Up On Sweets step in the plan has been accomplished by cruising by the closest Krispy Kreme for a dozen assorted supplemented by at least a half-dozen “Hot Now” ingots of awesome, as well as some fresh spun hot chocolate to wash it down … because, when you’re out cruising in the truck, looking at lights, your kids should be vibrating, right?

This year, though, there was a bit of a hiccup in that step. We arrived at the local Krispy Kreme right on schedule, but the glazer was down. Repeat, the glazer … was … down. No hot and ready! Oh, the humanity! No worries, though, they had a case full of other assorted deliciousness that would serve to turn the Christmas carol volume to 11 in the back seat of Big Red.

As I waited for my cocoa order – they do it RIGHT at KK, so it takes a minute – the baker and I made small talk until, unbidden, she offered a confession. As she scooped the Ghirardelli cocoa into the mug, she turned, eyes hopeful, and confessed. “Okay, so it was me. I did it. I was running the donut line and I dropped my spatula in the machine. It jammed … and …” she paused, whispering this last bit, “…it broke. I hope they can fix it soon.”

I recalled, a lifetime ago, getting up in the wee hours to, literally, make the donuts, when I was slingin’ dough for Publix, so I offered what I hoped was a smile of commiseration and brief words of encouragement. I did not, however, suggest that, just maybe, they could … perhaps … for the time being … glaze by hand Like We Did back in the Stone Age. This sweet woman was mixing my cocoa, so I kept my yap shut and waited for the thick, rich, whipped cream topped goodness.

Thus equipped, we were on the road. While I won’t share every stop on the cruise, I’ve dropped a few highlights in this article as a bit of a scavenger hunt, to see who can identify where we were when we snapped these shots.

Our cruise was amended this year, a bit shorter because our early Christmas gift isn’t quite housetrained yet … and puppy physics allow them to expel more than their bodies can possibly hold…which may be why they can’t hold it more than a couple hours.

 

Wherever we went, we encountered folks out walking their neighborhood, enjoying the lights and the brief brush with sweater weather we were gifted on the longest night of the year. Hand-in-hand, flashlights or steaming mugs clutched in the other, they strolled and smiled, exchanging “Merry Christmas” with neighbors and strangers. Kids wrestled and played on the front lawn with their dads – awash in the greens, reds and blues of the glimmering season, while friends and relatives laughed and egged them on.

In the truck, we let the boys lead the caroling, resulting in some truly inspired new lyrics to sacred and commercial Christmas classics, heavy on the giggles and sprinkled with references to various bodily functions. There is, apparently, a good reason “Batman smells.”

Our Christmas Light Cruise is a way for us to embrace the season that comes with a great reminder. While all the displays are along the same basic theme – well, except for the giant menorah house … yasher koach and mazel tov, friend – each display reflects not only the homeowner’s personal taste, but also their view on how to celebrate the season. It’s freedom and ecumenism writ in blinking brilliance.

And everyone cruises or strolls by with nothing but appreciation. Nobody is out front criticizing the display – moving the Santas and manger scenes around to “correct” the assumed order of importance. Nobody knocks on the door to tell the people Santa doesn’t fly a rocket ship and the Wise Men were really not at the Nativity. They just take a minute out of their hectic holiday season and enjoy it. A brief pause to give and receive peace on earth … even if, in the truck, the kids are hopping and hollering.

Merry Christmas.

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