|Luminaria display in Albuquerque, New Mexico (Source)|
But, as you might have guessed, I digress.
The topic of today's post (in keeping with the spirit of the season, and I warned you that this month would be chock full of reminisces, memories, and old stories) is my remembrances of the Christmases we spent in eastern Nebraska. (The western part of the state is Shaun's territory. BTW, let's pray that his recent surgery went well.)
Four Christmases were spent in Nebraska, I don't recall seeing any white ones, though we did see a fair amount of snow in the winter. Just not on Christmas Day.
Now according to the United States Postal Service, who should know these things, we lived in Omaha. However, when I perused a map, it certainly looked to me that we lived in Bellevue, Nebraska. Not Omaha. A small point, I know, and just who am I to be arguing with the Postal Service? (Well, I have done it before and no doubt will do it again. I still get all of my mail delivered properly, well, I think I do...)
So when I sat down to write this post, I decided to check Google Maps for where it thought I lived in those days. What I found was the following, which is in reality two maps, one superimposed upon the other, the top bit showing the city limits of Omaha, the bottom bit showing the city limits of Bellevue. The big red circle is where we lived, in the Capehart Housing area, which belonged to the base. (When we first got there, I thought they said "K-Part." I thought "What an odd name for a housing area...")
So, Christmas in Nebraska. We were still a young family in 1987. I was a lowly Staff Sergeant (though soon to become a mighty Technical Sergeant), The Missus Herself, who seems ageless, was gorgeous (as she remains) and tolerant of my many idiosyncrasies, foibles, and faux pas. The progeny were as follows: The Naviguessor was 8, The Nuke was almost 5, and The WSO, the baby of the family as she was, is, and forever shall be, was 3. A very precocious lass of 3, as she would no doubt tell you were she here.
So young kids, squirrely Dad, and gorgeous Mom. We should have had our own sitcom, we, well the others, were certainly photogenic, talented, and intelligent. Me? I'll go with "well fed" and let's leave it at that, shall we?
It may have been our first Christmas there when someone (okay, it was The Missus Herself, she's the brains of the family, I just move heavy things when required) suggested that driving around the town and checking out the Christmas lights might be fun. Someone (maybe me, but probably her) thought it would be neat to listen to our Christmas tapes as we drove about and perused the holiday decorations.
I had a set of cassettes from Reader's Digest, called "Christmas Through the Years." The cover looked like this -
So off we would go in the old VW Jetta, kids in the back all bundled up. The Nuke in her booster seat, The WSO in her full size car seat (anticipating her future occupation no doubt). Lots of Christmas trees, candles illuminating hundreds of windows, many houses outlined with strings of lights, but one of our favorites we discovered when we turned into this one neighborhood.
The entire street, every driveway and walkway were lined with what I now know are called "luminaria," simply put - take a paper bag, put a layer of sand on the bottom, place a candle in the sand, light the candle, and voilà, an instant and pretty sweet Christmas decoration.
We were struck by the hundreds of luminaria, the candles flickering, casting shadows upon the ground, the simple beauty and wonder of it left us in awe. I pulled over and stopped just to admire the effort which had gone into this display, Dozens of families all getting together and decorating their street like that. Even more fascinating and wonderful is that was not the only neighborhood decorated in that manner.
It was so beautiful, even the kids were quiet. For a short while anyway. But they liked it enough to request we do it again in the following years. So we did. I cannot begin to express the joy and heartfelt warmth those memories give me.
Many years later we repeated that experience, though not in Nebraska, rather it was in Virginia. I don't know if you're familiar with the Norfolk area, but the Norfolk Botanical Garden is always worth a visit. Especially at Christmas, at night. We did that one year with The Nuke and The WSO. It was like old times, Christmas carols on the radio, dazzling lights and decorations, and, more importantly, the warmth and comfort of being with loved ones.
It was magnificent.
BTW, you can check out Christmas Through the Years in its entirety at YouTube. Worth your time I think. Enjoy!