I felt like a small child last Friday night, and Capital Holiday Lights in the Park had everything to do with it.
Unbelievably, we’re rolling up on year 5 of living in the Capital District, yet I’d never experienced Washington Park’s annual display. I knew about it right from the start, but wasn’t quite as intrigued as I am now – with a child, who understands that bright, twinkling lights are pretty awesome. So, what happened was, I proclaimed this year, “the year.” And oh by gosh, by golly, I made it happen. I felt a little giddy at work all day Friday, knowing my family-of-three’s weekend plans involved the trip to the park. I knew it was going to be fun to watch Jay’s cute little toddler expressions (and unbeknownst to me, hear them – with foul language intermixed – but we’ll get to that later) as he reacted to the displays, but as the day passed, I started to realize I was excited for myself as well. As in, nobody better do anything to ruin the experience – cry, yell, whine, or poop their pants, or anything else, to dampen my spirit.
As we approached Washington Park, my giddiness got way out of control. I squealed when we pulled in. I couldn’t shut up. “Look! Over there! Wait! No! Up there! NO WAY STOP NO I CAN’T I CANNOT IT’S SANTA. ON A. MOTOR. CYCLE.” Jay followed suit, screaming “CHRISTMAAAAAAS,” repeatedly, occasionally pointing out what the displays were – fire truck, police car, socking (stocking.) I was in awe the entire time. Halfway through, though, my emotions got the best of me.
“My dad would’ve loved this,” I said. And suddenly, my eyes welled up with tears, and I dug up some old memories in my mind as we sat in backed up traffic by the display of children playing hockey. “Remember that house over the hill in Webster Springs, the one that was lit up every year and had a bunch of figures and displays in the front yard?” Todd asked. And, I did. He and I grew up doing virtually the same exact things with our families during the holidays. One of those traditions involved a drive looking at lights. Every Christmas Eve, my dad, mom, brother and I would load up in car and take the 20-minute drive to see “the house over the hill,” a typical house in a rural area sitting on a mountainside – except at Christmastime. This house was special. It lighted the sky above, which was a big deal considering it rested in the middle of trees. The front lawn was loaded with blinking figures, and the house was lined from side to side, top to bottom with strategically placed lights. A few more figures were added to the front lawn each year. A widened berm provided onlookers with a place to stop, gaze over the mountainside, and take photos. Christmas wouldn’t have been complete without the annual drive to the house, which I made a point to enjoy through my twenties. I haven’t been back in awhile.
“CONES!” Jay screamed at the top of his lungs. Traffic cones, of course. To direct the traffic. I instantly reverted back to the present as we neared the lake house. I remained quiet as I finished digesting the sudden onslaught of childhood memories. I felt warm and experienced one of those sudden rushes of happiness you get at rare moments when you’re like, wow, life is good. Things are good. I am loving this. This is right. I’d forgotten how much I loved looking at lights as a child, and now, that feeling, that tradition, has been reborn. I rolled down the window so Jay could enjoy the folks dressed up like Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman dancing to Christmas music in front of the lake house.
“F___ SANTA!” Shouted the 2-year old in my backseat.
My dad would’ve loved that, too.