Let’s just say, if it wasn’t moving, I’ve already wrapped a strand of lights around it.
And, apparently, I’m not alone.
Driving around this town, or any other, these days is like visiting the Magic Kingdom, or Oz or, at least, Fifth Avenue at Christmastime. As never before in my memory, the holidays arrived early this year with a feast of lights that suggests as much about our resilience as our collective need for a pick-me-up.
As the worst year in several generations finally grinds to a close, we’re celebrating not just the religious season but also the end of a season of darkness. Between a relentless pandemic and a democracy-challenging election, our suddenly brighter world heralds a common pursuit of happier days. What better way to summon new beginnings than by hanging wreaths, tying bows and stringing lights from every bough and rooftop?
Friends from across the country report similar manifestations of local cheer. I haven’t flown since March, but I imagine the country looks like it has been invaded by billions of lightning bugs. My own house could serve as a beacon for lost pilots.
Not one for excessive ornamentation, I typically cringe when stores put out holiday decorations early or force Christmas carols on shoppers before the Halloween costumes have been marked down. But this year even I tossed out my own rule against anything Christmas until after Thanksgiving. And I could see through people’s windows that I was by no means unusual.
It wasn’t long before I was in hot pursuit of the Gaudy and the Glorious. I’ve swagged the front driveway with garlands, red bows and white lights. A light post is now wreathed and bowed. White lights run the length of the front porch and two Christmas trees flank the front door. Where a tasteful wreath and a couple of poinsettias used to do, I was eyeing the last inflatable Santa during a recent visit to Lowe’s, where I had sprinted to buy one of the last trees—and, yes, to buy yet more lights.
Lo and behold, nary a strand for sale. The shelves that just the day before (I go almost daily) had been laden with every sort of décor, and enough candlepower to light a small forest of firs, were now filled with empty red and green storage bins. Just a handful of trees remained.
No white lights. No colored lights. No inflatable Santas. (I was cheered by a story in the Post about a Black Arkansas family that placed an inflatable Black Santa amid their front yard display. When the family received a racist rant in their mailbox attacking their Santa, their neighbors in the mostly White North Little Rock neighborhood of Lakewood began putting up Black Santas on their own yards. Yay, Lakewood. And welcome (almost) to 2021.)
The past year has left us exhausted from sadness, sickness and death, from election denial, hyper-partisanship and mean-spiritedness that has hovered over us like a low-lying toxic cloud. Away and be gone with the hate and the greed. We’re worn out and worn down by isolation, shutdowns, quarantines, home schooling, economic turmoil, destroyed businesses and lost jobs—and especially separation from friends and loved ones.
The absence of joy has haunted every household. Loss is our common denominator.
So no wonder we’ve pulled out the stops. We’ve become armies of lamplighters, reversing the darkness and spreading the flame of civility and civilization from one front yard to the next, a shared ritual of belief in something greater than ourselves and, closer to home, belief in one another.
These riots of light are about more than just our many December holidays. They’re testaments to unity, communion, innocence, hope and joy. One candle lights another and another and another until the sun rises and the trumpets blare. Which is an excessively ornamental way to say that America’s spirit of goodness, love and charity is alive and well.
You can see it twinkling everywhere.