I love that quote, and reading Dan McNeil’s editorial last week about his Christmas tree-related history – and hoped-for future! – brought back a lot of Christmas memories for me, especially when it comes to Christmas lights.
From driving to see the Drake’s Mill Pond’s Christmas tree years ago to boat parades off St. Croix and Charleston’s Battery to car cruises through a Christmas-themed and illuminated Edisto Memorial Gardens in Orangeburg – with two kids gagaing and hanging out the rear windows, to trips to see the Columbia Zoo decorated for the holidays, to checking out the vastly-cool “Speedway In Lights” back when I lived close to Bristol Motor Speedway, trust me, I have seen me some lit-up Christmases.
And I guess every city has its pride and joy in some holiday site, event, or activity, but with all I’ve been lucky to see, my favorite is, and always will be, Bennettsville and Marlboro County. I was reminded of that when a Facebook friend recently alerted that it would be well worth my time to drive downtown one night and note just how beautifully lit Downtown Bennettsville is for the holiday, thanks to City and County workers going the extra step, highlighted by the brightly glowing Pilot Club “Light a Tree” display. And he was way right. Personally, I recommend approaching from the Bypass headed northward on Broad Street, where you can see the Courthouse illuminated in its full glory, becoming bolder and more impressive as you near it, fronted by palmetto trees whose trunks are encircled by strings of white lights. But that’s just from Broad, and there ain’t a bad view in town. Cruise around a few blocks, cut behind the Courthouse and you’ll feel the spirit. Take a ride and take a look; tell me if I’m wrong.
And it’s evident throughout the County as even the lights along the Walking Trail at Lake Paul Wallace take on a festive nature this time of year. And, folks, McColl is flat showing off, along with other areas, as towns, communities and even small clusters of rural residences seem to be getting in on the act. In fact, one of the coolest things this time of year is to see a single home, alone and set back off the road, yet lit up like there’s no tomorrow. And, of course, if you really wanna get your mind blown, ride out to Candy Cane Wonderland in Adamsville. And I dare you not to smile on your way back. Christmas seems to wave a magic wand over the world, leaving it softer and more beautiful and people more caring. Relish it.
But it was Christmas trees Dan spoke most about last week, and what really made me chuckle the most was recalling various trees of my own youth.
Like Dan, my first real experience with live Christmas trees came via a farm experience as my dad’s father, Pa, would every year wander his Scotland County land for the ideal live cypress to qualify for that year’s tree. Pa would then cut it down, drag it back home, set it up and sit back while Nanny and the other gals did the dressing of the tree. And I recall she had the coolest ornaments, including strings of lights with liquid filled tubes which, when clipped to a branch and warmed from illumination, would actually begin to bubble, as well as sharply angled and intricate glass ornaments that I bet were ancient antiques even then.
On mom’s side, over in Gibson, things were a bit different as Grandma Cleyr Don’s tree was a little more high-tech for the day, a chrome/silver aluminum foil model that came with an oscillating fan-like device that sat off to the side slooooowly rotating a tri-colored disk which would bathe that reflective “tree” in reds and greens and blues and reds and greens and blues. Over and over and over and over, on an endless loop. It’s a wonder we weren’t all blinded by that thing.
However, at home, growing up, we always had a real store-bought tree. And we hand-painted ornaments and strung lights and dressed that sucker up prettier every year. But the coolest thing about those trees was how you could walk by and snap a branch tip off and put it in your pocket to take to school, where you could smell that Christmas spirit anytime you wanted. NOTHING smells like Christmas.
What special memories those are.
Yep, Christmas is finally here, folks! And let’s make the most of it. Let’s decorate our homes, light the candles, wrap the presents, and plan the feasts, but most importantly let us clean our hearts so that we might invite our neighbors in. And this year I’d ask that you find the time to display a blue light or string in remembrance of some dear, dear people we’ve lost this year, but also in memory and honor of our law enforcement and other first responders. They truly give us gifts everyday. Keep them all, and their families, in your prayers.
So whatever decorations you’ve got going on, set those Christmas figures and lights aglow, and lead ol’ Santa and Rudolf and the gang right on to the house, folks. And a very Merry, Blessed and Safe Christmas to each of you.