Ancient History

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Last night we took our annual Christmas light-gazing tour. Our custom is to put the kids in their pajamas and place them into the chilled minivan. We bring along the Christmas music to heighten the effect and for sing-a-long purposes. The kids are always very excited and often get ahead of themselves.

“Oooohhh!” shouted Tommy from his back-and-center seat. “Look at that! Ba-da-ba-ba-baaaa…I lovin’ it!” It rapidly became clear that his enchantment was not coming from the brightly lit trees in the median, but by the golden amber-hued glow produced by the swooping and dominating McDonald’s sign.

Before we could officially kick off the tour, a stop at Starbucks was made for hot chocolate and some sort of caffeine and eggnog drink for hubby. He needed his energy for the task ahead, negotiating the interstates, the smaller highways, the city streets, and the snaking roads of suburbia. The hunt for slow-down-the-minivan-worthy lights would not be easy this year because we never received the handy Christmas light guide that the paper publishes. We would have to go by instinct.

Our first destination was the always-reliable Larimer Square in downtown Denver. Someone stretches big ropes of white lights across the street from building to building, creating a canopy of lights to drive under. This street exemplifies the handiness and practicality of a glass-topped car, which I wished we had at that moment. Our first “ooohhs” were heard from the fleece-covered-and-now-complaining-how-hot-they-were-gallery.
larimer christmas

Dodging busses and pesky red lights, we made our way to the infamous Denver City and County building, which was recently the sight of great controversy when Mayor Hickenlooper announced that next year the “Merry Christmas” sign was outta here. He quickly backtracked when people from all over the country told him he was a meanie of Scrooge McDuck proportions. This building has been elaborately lit each year since 1935, blazing from Thanksgiving to the final day of the Stock Show (which involves manure and mooing, not Wall Street).
city and county

In what was the most fortuitous parking place in the history of the entire world, a space was open dead-center in front of the massive building. There was no better view. Because the kids were dressed in jammies and in some cases darling froggy-headed slippers, hubby carried them, one-by-one, through the arc of lights. I watched from the front seat as he took them on the tour of Santa’s workshop, the Nativity, and by protesters holding a banner that proclaimed “For Many There is Still No Room at the Inn.”

After all the awake kids had seen the lights and felt the snap of the air, it was my turn. I tried to walk slowly and soak it all in. There was a couple with a baby in a stroller, bundled in a snowy white bunting that picked up the glow of the lights. They were gazing into each others eyes with goofy grins on their faces. I watched the mechanical Santa-oriented display, I wondered at the austere, but colorful nativity, felt guilty when confronted with the giant banner, and finally looked up at the moon. It wasn’t full, but it was there—a scalloped white light that left me as breathless and awed as the colorful glow on the marble columns. Perfect.

We took off and knew that anything after would pale in comparison.

There were plenty of yards and houses with icicle lights, enormous air-filled elves and snowmen, a Grinch or two, twinkles, sparkles, neighborhoods where the covenents demand only classy white lights, neighborhoods where nobody decorates, neighborhoods where everybody decorates (I want to live there, where people have fun). We saw a tree in a yard that must have been 100 feet tall, with blue lights reaching to the tip-top. We speculated on how that was accomplished without borrowing the fire department’s biggest ladder truck.

Finally, we saw a house with an interesting array of lights. Small red strands snaked around a bush and an evergreen tree. White lights followed the gutters along the roof’s edge. A sign on the front declared “Happy Holidays” in little white lights. A couple of windows had strands defining the normally mundane rectangles. You know lights are good when a rectangle looks glamorous.

We liked it so much we pulled into the driveway and went inside.

2 comments to Lights

  • Uncle Jim

    Man I wish I had my jammies maybe I couldda tagged along, I loved the ending (although I had to think about it for a second I thought you invited yourselves into a nieghbors house!)

  • hamster

    Love the haikus. I forgot how beautiful the lights are in downtown Denver. I’m sure your kids will treasure the memory of Lee carrying them through the lights. So far, the only new tradition we’ve adopted this year is letting J hold “her” ornament (a bell) before she goes to bed. Each night I try to soak in her delight and awe as I ring the bell for her, I know that she won’t find it as amazing next year : ). I know your busy with the holidays, but I hope you’ll keep writing as I love catching up with you this way.

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