Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Candy Cane Lane Caper

Every year for as long as I could remember, my husband and I would wait until it was dark and have our daughters, Danae and Cheryl put on their warmest clothes and jackets. We’d grab some warm blankets as we scurried out to the car with a thermos of warm coco and a feeling of Christmas cheer. We’d turn on the radio and listen to Christmas music as we drove to Candy Cane Lane. During any other time of the year, we’d never have been able to find the place. For you see, Candy Cane Lane, just like Christmas itself magically appears then disappears every year. Just as everyone knows Santa Clause lives in the North Pole, Candy Cane Lane with its myriad of lights and festive regalia appeared and disappeared yearly like Brigadoon to remind us that who we are and what we do for others matters more than what we get. However, that certainly didn’t seem to be the case on that one Christmas so long ago. But I’m getting ahead of myself. So let’s begin at the beginning since that’s where any good story begins.
            I remember it as if it were yesterday although looking back now and counting the years it was a long time ago. Nye onto thirty years or more if my memory serves me…Yep, I think that’s about right because my kids were still little. It was Thanksgiving - one of those rare holidays where we’d eaten early, cleaned up, and everyone who’d come, including grandma and grandpa left just as is was getting dark. So my hubby Ron and I looked at each other, and smiled as he nodded towards the coat closet. Knowing what he meant, I hurried into the kitchen to make some coco.
            Thermos tucked into my carryall, Ron hollered, “Girls put on your warmest clothes.”
            As if on que, they joyfully shouted, “Hurray! We’re going to Candy Cane Lane.” They rushed off and Ron forged in our linen closet to find our warmest blankets. A few minutes later, we smiled at each other as we all gathered in the vestibule. With a nod and a wink reminiscent of old Saint Nick, Ron opened the front door and we ran to the car, faces aglow. He joined us and backed the car out of the driveway, while I turned on the radio and heard Andy Williams singing,

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev'rywhere you go; 
Take a look in the five and ten glistening once again 
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.

            Before we knew it, we were singing along. Now to an onlooker this might have seemed odd since we didn’t know Messiah yet, so let me share that as far as we were concerned, having Holiday Cheer in our heart had nothing to do with what faith you practiced. It had everything to do with wishing for peace on earth and extending good will towards men…and women. And as far as Candy Cane Lane or even Christmas itself was concerned, everyone who knew me and mine knew were we always ready for a party of any sort…so off to Candy Cane Lane we went.
            While Ron drove into the night, we reminisced about all the years we had visited the Lane. We remembered the year we’d seen carolers dressed as if they were characters from a Dickens novel singing Christmas songs as they walked the 12 blocks that made up the Lane. Grouped in two’s - the women carried baskets filled with muffins - the men had thermoses filled with hot apple cider. Ron had pulled over, so we could hop out, get a muffin, some cider and get back into the car much to the consternation of those in the cars behind us that let us know what we’d done caused the traffic through the lane to back up more than it usually did. That didn’t bother us because we knew the ride through the Lane was all about making memories. We loved the fact that a drive, which should take five or ten minutes took at least an hour. While Ron waved those in a hurry on, Cheryl reminisced about the first time she’d seen the giant Snoopy rotating in time to Christmas carols. Danae spoke about how lovely each family had decorated their tree and wondered if their choices reflected the people within the homes. We talked about what it would be like to live on these streets while we oohed and awed as we pointed to each home amid giggles of joy mingled with music as the Lane’s magic wove its way into our hearts leaving another year of memories to treasure. 
            We’d learned that with each passing generation the people who lived on Candy Cane Lane sold their homes to their children, relatives or dear friends who promised to keep this tradition going. Knowing this brought me a sense of community and a feeling that as difficult as things could get - for one brief moment - everyone really did want to bless each other. And as we inched our way along in a sea of cars which seldom moved more than a foot or two while gawking at the beautiful, amazing, religious, funny, outlandish - and at times thought provoking decorations - I believed everyone felt what I did.  
            Some believe all good things must end. I don’t, and I discovered my family didn’t the next night when we turned on the news and discovered that vandals had defaced Candy Cane Lane and ruined the decorations leaving the owners forlorn. That’s right – this bastion of cherished values, of joyful memories - a place where children could experience the wonder of people going out of their way to bless their community and others who made the yearly trek sometimes pulling over in their car to catch a few winks before they hurried on - had vanished. Where once the song “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” was heard, now on the news the faces of homeowners who’d remind behind the scenes were lined with concern as they bemoaned the passing of the legacy they’d pledged to continue.
            As the reporter interviewed one of the owners, I saw him standing in front of his home where, just the night before, we’d heard, “Have a holly, jolly Christmas,” being played while a child size coo-choo train chugged between presents wrapped in red and green, which were as large as a side table or larger, and my kids wondered if there really were presents inside them. Whether there were present in those boxes or not, it didn’t matter - what mattered now was that someone needed to do something or Candy Cane Lane would vanish into the ether as surly as Brigadoon did. However, unlike that fabled town, if these beloved yuletide streets vanished they would never appear again.
            Each of us wanted to do something. We each knew without saying anything that whatever we did would have to gain media attention and be done anonymously. Just as these homeowners had gifted our community, we would bestow an affirmation upon them. A very tall order because how could a family of four gift blocks of people and do it in a way that would be news worthy? We didn’t know. And being Jewish we didn’t have anything in our home that gave us an idea. So we drove to our local five and dime, scurried up and down the isles in search of an idea, and ended up in the art supplies isle all smiles, for above us hung a Christmas display, at eye level were the supplies needed to make what we saw. Danae got a cart and we packed it full. Of course we weren’t going to make a replica of their display! In fact we weren’t sure what we were going to do.
Returning home, we dumped the bags of supplies onto our kitchen table and reviewed what we had. Glue - check, poster board - check, markers - check, extra red and green markers – check, and check. Red and green ribbon - check…and the list went on. We’d bought out the section which meant we’d be eating allot of noodles with guess what…noodles as the side dish. But that didn’t matter. What mattered was the realization that we didn’t have a clue about what to make that would overshadow all the vandals had done, but we had to have the project done and place on Candy Cane Lane before daybreak.
            Ron and I voiced idea after idea. None worked. Time ticked by. It was way past the kid’s bedtime and they were yawning. “It’s getting late and you guys have school tomorrow,” I said.
            I’ll never know if it was the idea of leaving the project undone or the fact that their hearts hurt for the homeowners, but at that moment that the girls suggested, “How about if we tell them we love them.” Amid smiles, Ron and I nodded.
       Turing on the news the next night, we saw the same reporter interviewing the same homeowner. This time the man’s sorrow had turned to joy! In fact, all the homeowners were smiling because someone had hung or tapped poster boards with, “We Love You Candy Cane Lane!” As the camera scanned the street, we saw that their sadness had turned to joy because our posters proclaimed what we and generations before us felt - love for those who’d gone out of their way to make our holiday special with their gift made them smile.
           Today my kids have kids of their own and Danae, my eldest daughter, lives a few miles from where we did. Each year she and her husband bundle their kids up and take them to Candy Cane Lane. I’ve never asked her or Cheryl if they remember the time Candy Cane Lane almost vanished, because knowing Messiah as I do now, I know Christmas isn’t about the gifts we give each other, but about the gift God gave the world on the day Christ was born to fulfill what was written by the prophet Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders: and his shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.


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