Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Christmas Lights (10/30/08)
TITLE: Christmas Lights (ii)
By Byrne Bennett
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The snow crunched beneath the tires of our 1960 Chevy Bel Air as it crept up the long gravel road to grandma and grandpa’s house in the Palouse Country of Eastern Washington. As each mile passed, anticipation grew. It was December 24, 1964. Earlier that day my parents, sisters, Chico the Chihuahua, and I left the temperate and rainy Willamette Valley in Oregon to travel through the Columbia Gorge to the hilly farmland that lay on the other side of the mountain range. The trip, though six hours in length, seemed like an eternity. As a seven year old, I could not wait to see my grandfather, a man who looked like President Truman, had the wit of Will Rogers, and had a grip like a vice. I knew he would greet our car in front of the house as we pulled into the circular driveway. He always did. He would hug and kiss us and usher us into the house to see grandma. It was always special to go to the farm. I knew this visit would exceed all others because besides seeing my grandparents, it was Christmas. I knew the coming four days would be special. I could not wait to build a snowman, sled down Gray’s Butte, explore the barns and visit my cousins. The moment finally arrived, as I strained to look out the window I could see grandpa standing in front of the house. He must have seen our headlights as we approached the farm. Grandma was in the pantry getting cookies from the cookie jar. She always spoiled us with treats. As I walked into the dining room, I noticed the sliding door to the parlor was shut. In many visits to the farm, I had never seen that door shut. Grandpa told me that behind the door was a surprise that I could not see until the next morning. It was late in the evening and bedtime was near. We hurriedly hung our Christmas stockings on the oil heater that sat in the dining room. I had to make sure I made at least one snow angel before retiring for the night. I also had to run as fast as possible to the brooder house where I drank ice-cold spring water from a faucet. I could not go to bed without completing that rite. I went to bed content, grateful and excited about Christmas morning. As I awoke on Christmas, I heard the creaking floorboards downstairs. I knew it was grandpa. The rest of my family was still asleep. By the time I got downstairs, grandpa was sitting at the dining room table playing solitaire. That is what he did every morning. Grandpa told me I could not look in the parlor until my sisters woke up. I pestered him until he told me I could take a quick peek as long as I kept it our secret. I slowly slid open the sliding door and looked inside the parlor. The Christmas lights, they were bright and almost blinding. They covered the tree from top to bottom. I saw red, green, blue, and yellow lights. I mostly remember the red; it seemed to illuminate the whole room. The walls and ceiling had a deep, beautiful red hue. The many presents under the tree had tones of red as well. On the phonograph, I heard Bing Crosby singing White Christmas. It was a little strange finally hearing this song. As long as I could remember, this record was always sitting on the turntable, regardless of the time of year. Finally, the record was playing. This was indeed a special Christmas.
The Christmas of 1964 is one I will never forget. I remember playing games with my sisters as we drove to the farm. I remember the snow, the biting cold, and soggy wet clothes. I remember climbing up Gray’s Butte just so I could slide back down. What a wonderful weariness. For the first time, I understood the extent of my parents’ generosity. I remember each gift they gave me. I remember the Bart Starr jersey, the Sons of Pioneers record, and the small wheel-to-wheel tape recorder. I remember the large Santa cutout that sat on the front porch, and the simple nativity scene that sat on the dinette. What I remember most are the Christmas lights. Those beautiful lights flooded my senses and imprinted my soul with God’s gift to me, memories of the best Christmas ever.
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