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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Lights (10/30/08)

TITLE: Life on Christmas Lane
By Debra Martinez


When Julia and Sam Smith had first seen the contract on the house they were purchasing on R Street, they had been surprised to note that Christmas decorations were a part of their new possessions. In writing: one painted plywood Nativity scene containing manger, figures of Mary and Joseph, two shepherds, one sheep, three Wise Men, one camel, Angel to suspend from overhead wire, floodlights, and “Silent Night” on looping tape. Sure enough, they had found the display carefully stored in the back of the shed beside the garage, Christmas lights and music in a sealed plastic container, complete with instructions.

For the next twenty-nine years, they had faithfully helped their neighbors transform their street into Christmas Lane for all to enjoy.

It was amazing, actually, to join this long-standing tradition, started over forty years earlier by a vibrant man whose own Christmas yard display had sparked a wildfire in his neighborhood of middle-aged Georgia textile workers.

Sighing deeply, Julia pulled at the blanket that had slipped low on her lap. Recently widowed, and now recovering from a broken hip, she was temporarily ensconced in a rehab clinic in the nearby town of Warm Springs. Knowing that her neighbors were taking advantage of this crisp November weather to dust off and refurbish their Christmas displays, she pictured them checking strands of twinkling lights, refreshing faded paint, considering additions while humming Christmas tunes.

Julia and Sam had attended the kick-off breakfast every one of the past twenty-nine years, contributing her much-complimented breakfast casserole and basket of homemade cinnamon rolls, and loving the warm spirit of camaraderie and community that infused the select group. Twelve houses on Christmas Lane, their occupants faithful to prepare a delightfully diverse glimpse of Christmas joys and drama, provided weeks of pleasure for locals, as well as bus- and van-loads from surrounding areas. Smiling in spite of her discomfort, she remembered the night that they had even made the Atlanta news. While Mickey and Minnie had decorated a tree on one side, and Kermit and his crew caroled on the other, she and Sam had been proud to anchor the street with the true Light of Christmas as she added the swaddled life-sized doll to the manger. What a shame to be out of commission this year with Sam so recently gone and no children of her own to carry on the tradition for her. After all, what was Christmas without the Nativity?

Two weeks later, Julia found herself being transferred to the assisted living facility just around the corner from her own home. Previously an elementary school, it now provided suites of rooms for those who needed some level of support, but were not yet ready for the environment of a nursing care facility. She had been amazed when the social worker had told her that a place was available so close to those she knew and loved. Neighbors with whom she was used to sharing coffee and conversation would only be steps away. She had every hope that they would find time to see her.

Julia, who had never thought of herself as long-suffering, placidly endured the ministrations of the facility staff as they loaded her into the transport van. Once on the road, she played her favorite “tree alert” game, searching for maples and Bradford pears showing off the last of their fall wardrobe. Before she knew it, she realized that she was heading toward her own street, now being transformed into Christmas Lane.

Cheerful by nature, she tried not to feel sad as she considered the efforts that were being made in preparation for this weekend’s opening night. Wistful, she wished she were heading for her own home.

“Mrs. Smith.” The voice of the van driver broke into Julia’s thoughts. “I think this is the time to tell you that I was asked to make a little detour on our way to Crestview. Got time for a short stop?”

An hour later, a thoroughly delighted old woman was checked in to her temporary home. After watching her younger neighbors place a familiar figure into its crèche in her fully prepared yard, she had accepted hugs and get-wells from many familiar faces. With promises to check her out for Saturday’s breakfast, they had sent her on to a suite that was filled with many comforts from her own home.

“Sam, you’d be so pleased,” Julia whispered, as she settled in for the night. Christmas Lane’s true gift of love was in evidence once again.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Mary Alice Bowles11/08/08
I saw the lights of Jesus shining all through this story. Good Job...
Carole Robishaw 11/10/08
There is a street here in Austin, where all the neighbors join together to light it up, people come from far away to walk up and down 38th St. It is even in their deed restrictions that they have to participate. However, it saddens me to no end to see that Christmas is not a part of their light show, as was in your story. Thank you for this one.