|
|
|
The Telegram
  • Gary Brown: Lights reflect on Christmas past

  • It was about this time of the holiday season that people in my neighborhood gather around their houses to festively grumble at their children about stepping on strands of decorative holiday lights and generously began to bestow Christmas gifts upon the electric company.

    • email print
  • It was about this time of the holiday season that people in my neighborhood gather around their houses to festively grumble at their children about stepping on strands of decorative holiday lights and generously began to bestow Christmas gifts upon the electric company.
    This was before the day of high-efficiency and tasteful strands of little white lights. Our bulbs were big and multicolored — red, blue, green and yellow, with some pink and a few purple. Our homes glowed in a combined hue, as strands of heavy-duty illumination outlined eaves, porches, pillars, and windows. Sometimes pets even temporarily got wrapped in lights, until a father found out. Don’t ask me how I know.
    This traditional show of Christmas spirit provided a festive atmosphere to communities throughout the country in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as contributing greatly to our national defense during the Cold War. If our enemies had fired any heat-seeking missiles at us during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, they likely would have hovered in the air when they found out that every home in the United States was hot for the holidays.
    Brought to mind
    I thought of the old holiday light displays when I saw a few families in my neighborhood taking advantage of the warm weather one recent weekend to put final touches on their outdoor Christmas decorations.
    The white lights were going up. Christmas characters were being inflated. Animated reindeer were being given their life-sustaining electricity.
    My dad erected his display according to a similar schedule. He’d watch the weather and pick out a warm weekend. He’d haul out the box of light strands on Wednesday and hopefully by Saturday morning we’d have them all untangled. A few times we missed church on Sunday morning because of a stubborn strand, but mostly we were successful and had our home powered up and our address registered on the electric company’s Christmas card list by Saturday evening.
    We placed candles in the windows. Well, they weren’t actual candles, with the flames licking at the curtains. They were plastic candle-shaped lights that had orange bulbs at the top. They probably still would have caught the curtains on fire if they’d come in contact with them, but at least the insurance guy probably wouldn’t have looked at us as though we were idiots when we made the claim.
    Dad wrapped green garland around each porch post. He placed more strands of bulbs in the bushes in front of the porch. And he slapped a Santa on the front door, I guess to make sure everybody passing by knew for certain the reason he was lighting up our house brighter than a used car lot.
    Page 2 of 2 - Pales in comparison
    Our old outdoor Christmas decorations were nothing compared to modern holiday light displays, of course.
    Today’s largest displays are entertainment — with lights flickering in concert with Christmas carols. Even modest light displays are timed to burst into illumination at a predetermined hour.
    My dad’s timer was his window. When it got dark on the weekend, he turned on the lights. Then he turned them off when he went to bed. It’s amazing how easily you can live with a minimum of technology.
    During the week, my mother turned them on. She knew her husband liked seeing them as he drove up the street on his way home from work. Love means doing a lot of those little things.
    On Christmas Eve, neither of them had to turn them on. All dad had to do while he sat in his chair drinking eggnog was announce, rather nonchalantly I thought considering the significance of the event, “I wonder if Santa will know where to stop if the lights aren’t on.”
    Nobody stampedes quicker toward the light switch than kids thinking they’re going to get ignored by the Christmas big guy.
    Contact Gary Brown at gary.brown@cantonrep.com.

      calendar