When I was a child I thought it would be so nice to live in a city where there were many Christmas lights on display. What fun it was to go into town and experience all the hustle and bustle associated with the season! Shoppers rushing around as the cold night air turned noses red; the sound of the Salvation Army bells jingling on every street corner. It was beyond thrilling.
But we lived in the quiet of the country where the only Christmas lights to be seen were on trees in windows of the houses you drove by.
I would hear the song, “Silver Bells, Silver Bells, its Christmas time in the city,” and think, “but it’s Christmastime in the country, too,” and wonder why “we” were “left out.”
But we did have our share of outings in town because my mother was a real Christmas person and so much enjoyed seeing the bright lights of the season. She would “ooh and ahh” at each display; would select with care each and every gift she bought for her daughters and try her best to get daddy excited about the season.
One vivid memory is the selection of our tree one year. It was late afternoon, the December sky dark and sleet beginning to fall as he steered the 1953 Chevrolet into the Sears & Roebuck parking lot in Florence. Mother opted that she and the girls would stay in the car while she sent him off to make a selection.
Here’s daddy, shivering in the cold, as he dragged one tree after another over to the car for mother's approval. She would shake her head “no,” and off he would go for another try.
On this process went and daddy must have brought five or six trees to the car before he finally got it right!
By the time he stood in line to pay, tied the Frasier fir atop the car and slid in behind the wheel, his hat and gloves were frosted over from the sleet and he was shivvering. But mother had the tree she wanted!
Daddy, who was always one to tell a good story, recounted this one many times over the years, making light of it and always garnering a laugh from his audience. The joke was on him but he loved it!
Those trees would sit in a tub of water outdoors several days before being brought inside to be stood up in the living room and decorated. And what excitement that was. But first we had to get past stringing the lights, which was always a chore that the parents did. And as I recall, an argument usually ensued – probably because some of the lights didn’t work, bulbs had to be replaced and placed on the tree just so. This was serious business.
But after the lights were on, my sister and I were allowed to hang the tinsel, ornaments and silver icicles on the tree. And then we would sit in the living room and gaze at that thing of beauty. There was nothing like a Christmas tree, and all the more special because it was to be enjoyed for such a short time.
So at least while inside our cozy house we could enjoy the lights of Christmas, just like people in the city. And it was good.