When I was a kid, our family would always go for a drive on Christmas Eve to look at Christmas lights. My sister and I sat in the back, my mother in the front, and my father would drive. Unless my grandparents were visiting, then my sister would sit in the front between my parents (on the bench seat—no car seats in those days) and I would sit in the back between my grandparents.We'd drive around looking for houses where the owner put up a lot of lights. One house in particular became famous for having lights all over the house and all kinds of sculptures covered with lights in the yard: snowmen, Santa and his reindeer, giant snowflakes, and even animals that would move their heads and tails. As the years went on so many people would drive by that house to look at the lights that the traffic jams became unmanageable. The owner ended up donating all his lights and sculptures to the city so they could put them in a park to avoid the traffic jams. As far as I know the lights are still put on display in that park every Christmas.Sometimes we'd drive a long distance to go to where there were show-homes for new neighborhoods being built. The developers would cover every inch of the walls and roofs of the houses with lights in solid colors, which made the houses look like they were made of lights. Often it would be snowing, which made the lights look magical as the snow collected in the small gaps between the lights on the roofs.I don't recall ever having a Christmas without snow. So it was a shock for me when I came to California and saw people put up lights with no snow. I just always assumed the two go together.One year, when I was about 7, I told my parents I didn't believe in Santa anymore. That year we went for our Christmas Eve drive unusually late, so we were out past midnight. When we got back, there were presents from Santa under the tree! I had memorized every present under the tree before we left, so I knew they weren't there before. And there was a note from Santa thanking us for the milk and cookies my mother left out. The entire family went for the drive, and the house was locked. So it must have been Santa. I decided I did believe.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
My daughter had a school assignment to write a story about a family holiday tradition, and to collect stories from everyone else in her family. This is what I wrote for her: