In May, 2013 a columnist by the name of Craig Wilson took his final bow after a buyout from his employer, USA Today. He wrote a weekly column for them called “The Final Word” for more than sixteen years. His writing – regardless of the subject matter – provided readers with a unique, thoughtful take on even the most take-for-granted aspects of daily life.
During his long career there, one December he wrote an article which dealt with holiday decorations. Specifically, displays that provide a depth of feeling that make passers-by smile and project the spirit of the holidays upon them.
I present this gentle reminder from Craig Wilson (and his father) of just how simple, yet magical, this season can be…
A Glow In The Darkness Is The Best Gift Of All
Every December, a neighbor of ours opens his dining room shutters and lets in the world.
A floor-to-ceiling tree, laden with ornaments and white lights, fills the bay window. Underneath it is spread an assortment of antique toys. Original Raggedy Ann books, a model train engine from the Pennsylvania Railroad, a fire truck and an assortment of old stuffed animals. An elephant. A bear. A well-loved floppy-eared rabbit sporting a winter sweater and seated in a wicker sleigh, ready to glide.
The window, which is right on the sidewalk and perfect for viewing, has become a holiday tradition in the neighborhood. Like many, I make a detour on my nightly dog walk just to pass by.
I know there will come a Christmas when the display won’t be there, but until then, I happily take in the annual offering, just as I used to take in the mesmerizing holiday windows years ago at Sibley’s department store in Rochester, N.Y.
The magic of our neighborhood window, however, is that there’s nothing commercial about it. My neighbor offers up the display every year purely for the joy it might give a passerby, not to make a sale or hype a product.
It’s perhaps the simplest of Christmas gifts, which also makes it the best.
When I was walking Maggie the other night, I watched as a young mother and father pointed out the various toys to their daughter. She was maybe 3 or 4 and in her father’s arms. From the look on her face, you’d have thought she was in another world. Maybe she was.
And then the trio strolled away, happy perhaps in the belief that they’d just had one of the most pleasant and innocent experiences of their hectic holiday. A serendipity of the season.
When I was growing up in the country, Christmas displays like my neighbor’s window were not abundant.
But I remember being impressed that someone would take the time and effort to hang, say, a single strand of multicolored lights around their barn door. Or wrap a lamp pole with lights, aglow at the end of the lane. A lonely beacon in the night.
My dad did the same.
Christmas after Christmas, he would run the world’s longest extension cord across the snow-covered front yard, down to a tiny fir tree that proudly stood sentinel by the side of the road.
He covered the tree with what seemed like thousands of lights, and every night at 5, he turned them on with all the flourish of lighting the tree at Rockefeller Center.
I’ve often wondered what people thought as they drove down this country road, in the middle of nowhere, and came upon a solitary tree glowing in the December darkness.
Maybe they thought it was the prettiest thing they ever saw. Maybe they saw it as a gift.
Maybe they realized someone was just sharing his joy. Nothing to sell. No agenda in mind. Something done just for the joy of it. Like my neighbor’s magical window.
And maybe that’s what it’s all about.
Picture Courtesy Keil Tree