Starbucks started selling it’s holiday flavored coffee recently. This, alone, put me in a good mood today. When I walked in the store this morning and helped myself to a Grande Gingerbread Latte, I realized winter was officially around the corner—well, December, anyway.
December is one of my favorite months. Despite the weather dropping a few more degrees to the point where you wake up in the morning to find frost gathered in the corners of your car windshield, and despite the sun going down a few hours earlier, and despite almost every business closing up, turning the island into a complete and utter ghost town, December does have its positives. For instance, the holidays, or Christmas, although sometimes the holidays can add a lot of unnecessary stress.
But as I walked out of Starbucks and pondered over the possibility of when I should leave for home for Thanksgiving break, I happily jumped at the realization that the beginning of December was only a few days away.
I have so many fond memories of growing up on the island in the winter, but one of my fondest has always taken place during the first week of December, every year, until high school. In the spirit of Christmas and the holiday season, the first week of December was always the week that people around the neighborhood started putting up decorations around their front yards and lining their houses with lights—and I’m not talking about the boring white lights—I’m talking about the big, colorful lights that scream, “Look at me!”
This went for our house as well. We have a huge, leaning Mulberry Tree that covers the exterior of the front of our house. My dad would spend hours outside lining the branches of the tree with the biggest lights he could find at the store, along with the rest of the house, the fence we used to have, and the walkway leading to the front door. It would always be a fight between my mom and my brothers and me about the color of the lights, though. She always wanted the house to look nicely embroidered in white, contrasted against the black of the night sky. We, on the other hand, wanted the most obnoxious decorations you could find. And we always won. She always let us win.
But when we were finally done decorating our house, my mom used to pile us in the car the Friday of this first week and take us sightseeing up and down the island. We started in Anglesea and worked our way down all the way to Diamond Beach. We didn’t have any particular stop in mind, we sort of just perused and awed and ogled at all the pretty houses with all of their different decorations.
There was one house we looked forward to seeing every year, although I don’t particularly remember where it was. It was all of our favorites, and every year we talked about getting out of the car and meeting the people who lived inside, but obviously, we never did.
It was a big house, though, with pine trees decorated as Christmas trees lining the perimeter of the property, a long, winding walkway with candy cane guardrails and Santa’s sleigh planted directly in front of the mailbox. My two little brothers always liked Santa’s sleigh—it was the absolute height of their trip. But I liked the huge, life-size figures of every single Disney character you could imagine standing up all over the front yard, mainly because I had an obsession with Minnie Mouse when I was little. I thought this was different. I had never seen a house decorated as extravagantly as this one, holding no contest compared to our house. So I returned every year since the first time I laid eyes on it, every first week of December, up until high school.
And although I haven’t gone around the island Christmas light parading since I started high school, I’m thinking I may have to make an exception this year and bring back some good memories from my youth, even though I may be doing it a week early. So maybe Minnie Mouse will be in the front yard a little earlier this year than expected. You never know. Just saying…