It’s the beginning of a brand-new year. Hopefully it will be better than the last. It’s a time to look forward; to plan and to dream. But, before I get to that, I want to share a sweet memory from the final days of 2020. It was probably something I have not done for at least fifty-three years.
One Last Christmas Memory
Our family celebrated Christmas a week early, so, by Christmas day, everyone had returned to their homes. My husband and I shared Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Morning breakfast with my parents, then things went back to our typical routine.
We usually have dinner with my parents on Monday nights. It’s a good time to fix those meals that are best for more than two people. On the Monday night between Christmas and New Year’s, we decided to go on a drive after dinner to see the Christmas lights — just me and my mom and dad.
As we drove down the boulevard, the song Silver Bells popped into my mind.
Strings of streetlights, even stoplights Blink a bright red and green As the shoppers rush home with their treasures
Well, I’m sure that by this point all of the treasures had been opened and there was certainly no snow crunching in my central Florida hometown.
There’s A Reason It’s Called Lakeland
As we started to drive around Lake Mirror, a downtown lake surrounded by a promenade dating back to the 1920’s, my dad started telling me stories from his youth. He said that his father made a large nativity scene with moving parts to display in front of their house at Christmas. Evidently, there was even a write-up in the newspaper about Mr. Edwards’ nativity scene.
For as long as I can remember, the lights around Lake Mirror have been decorated with red bell shades. I’m sure they have been replaced a time or two. They are a reminder of Christmases past.
We made our way downtown to see our town centerpiece, Munn Park, ablaze with lights. We circled the block and my dad reminisced about his mother shopping on these downtown streets. My mom told me that Mrs. Edwards usually did not do her Christmas shopping until the weather was nasty. Having lived here all of my life, I can remember shopping downtown as well. I remember being very young and imagining Petula Clark was singing about my hometown in her song Downtown. I’m sure she had something bigger in mind.
There are not as many shops downtown since the advent of shopping centers and shopping malls. Even so, some of my favorite shops and restaurants are here. It’s my favorite part of Lakeland.
Next, we drove around Lake Morton, one of our lakes with a floating Christmas tree. It has been a tradition since the 1950’s. We drove up and down the streets of the South Lake Morton Historic District admiring the 1920’s bungalows decorated in nostalgic fashion. One of the bungalows used the large, colored bulbs that my father decorated our house with every Christmas. I have a memory of looking out my bedroom window at night and seeing the neighborhood boys stealing some of the bulbs.
Lake Hollingsworth is surrounded by grand homes. Many of them had spectacular decorations. So many beautiful lights.
We took a small detour and visited our old neighborhood, where I spent the first years of my life. We turned up Meadowbrook Avenue which used to be Christmas central back in the 1960’s. It was called Christmas Tree Lane and every house on the street had a Christmas tree in their front yard, all lit up and decorated. Some were red and green. Some were multi-colored. I remember one had all blue lights and I think one had lights shaped like fruit. I had a friend who lived on Meadowbrook and I was always a little envious that she got to live on Christmas Tree Lane. I’m sure my parents were not as envious as there was always a long line of slow traffic admiring the display in December. Probably not fun when you just want to get home from work.
We turned the corner and saw our little house. We were delighted to see that the current owners had decorated the house. It was with the modern blue and white led lights, but, at least it was decorated. There are a lot of good memories of that house and that neighborhood.
We retraced our route back around the lakes and through downtown. We bemoaned the fact that Florida Southern College stopped putting up the giant snowman head with its mortarboard on top of the planetarium. Times change.
We drove around one last lake, the one behind the old high school my parents both attended. They both recalled having to walk around Lake Wire when they were students. When I asked if it was for P.E., my dad answered “P.E. and punishment”. Hmmmm. I need to dig into that story a little deeper.
A Great Way To End The Year
It was a delightful outing. We enjoyed looking at the lights and reminiscing about life in our hometown. It was nice to just get out of the house, have a change of scenery. We haven’t been doing much of that for the past few months due to COVID.
I went to bed that night with a smile on my face. I love looking at Christmas lights, I always have. It was a reminder of all of the times my mom and dad drove me around looking at the lights at Christmas in my hometown.
A special thank you to my husband for indulging me by driving all over town to look at the Christmas lights (several times). Boone and I appreciate it.