As we rolled past the Christmas light pioneers of 2020, Heather began to raise the Garland.
No, not tinsel. Judy.
I promise, this year of all years it makes sense.
Ever since we began dating, Heather and I have hit the roads each winter to see what the Holiday Light World™ has to offer. We’ve witnessed the simple rooftop “landing pad,” the warmly glowing homes that belong on a Christmas card, the flashing blinkers and chasers that could launch America’s newest game show, and of course the gloriously overloaded theme parks that look ready to spontaneously combust with holiday cheer. You know the kind: “Joy to the world, my retina’s gone!”
But when we began taking care of Missy, things moved up to the next level. For Missy, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas” isn’t a song, it’s a way of life. When lights begin to appear, she’s ready to hit the road – every night, if possible. By Dec. 26, we may have made a dozen or more forays into the electric wonderland, visiting a different neighborhood every night. Sometimes we even discover brand-new neighborhoods thanks to her eager curiosity and my poor sense of direction.
Hey – if you don’t get lost in your own town at least once, is it really Christmas?
So when we rolled out on Thanksgiving night to see the early bird displays, we were ready. Heater cranked. Eyes alert. Christmas music on the radio.
Which brings me to Judy.
Somewhere around Sunset Street, Frank Sinatra began crooning the wistful strains of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” And as the tune played on, Heather sang over it with the original, darker Judy Garland version:
Someday soon, we all will be together,
If the fates allow,
Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow …
“I like it better,” Heather said as the last notes played. “Especially this year. It fits.”
I knew exactly what she meant.
When Garland originally sang it in Meet Me in St. Louis, it marked an uncertain future for the characters in the story, faced with the likelihood of an unwanted move to New York City. Outside the world of the movie theater, the reality of late 1944 faced just as much uncertainty. World War II had shown unmistakable signs of being winnable at last – the Normandy invasion, the liberation of Paris, the steady advance across the Pacific – but with months of fighting still ahead, families had to keep wondering.
When would everyone be together again?
When would things return to “normal?”
They’re the same questions we face now. And they don’t have easy answers.
Right now, hope and fear are entwined in an anxious waltz. Vaccines have begun to appear on the horizon – three of them! – side-by-side with yet another hideous surge in the COVID-19 pandemic. Even when they’re ready, it won’t be as simple as turning on a light switch. It takes time to distribute the shots, time for the antibodies to build, time for immunity to build up high enough to finally damp down community spread.
And with every hour of that time, the uncertainty continues. For the lives of loved ones. For jobs and livelihoods. For the hope that “someday soon,” we CAN all be together.
Until that time, we have to muddle through as best as possible – not despairing, but not ignoring the reality, either. Doing what we can, where we can, how we can as we watch out for each other and endure.
For now, we hope with the song that “Next year, all our troubles will be out of sight.” We keep the light alive and prepare for the day when it will grow.
And for those who keep it alive on rooftops and front yards across Longmont – more power to you, my friends.
You’re definitely going to need the wattage.