The Christmas magic is back at the neighbor’s house. It left us 3 years ago…but it’s back and I’m experiencing an renewed exuberance for the holiday season.
These good people made every human effort to decorate their front yard for the holidays in a fashion that would delight and amaze their grandchildren. Santa in a hot air balloon; assorted holiday themed inflatable snowmen; a lighted toy train; spinning, stuffed animal laden Ferris wheel, a carousel; and glittering, sparkly angels… the set up was extraordinary. It’s one of those houses you’d go out of your way to drive by. I’m pretty sure they won the city’s decorating contest every year. It was that good.
I was lucky enough to live on the same street. I’d see this glorious sight every night. It made me feel happy, Christmas-y. Another thing to love about the season, you know?
Until I didn’t see it any more.
The joy was unmercifully stolen from my neighbors on December 14, 2012. That was the day their 6 year old grandson was killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school.
I remember having a news station on my computer that day while I was at work. I turned it off. I could not take any more bad news…no more violence and shootings.
I remember twitter blowing up with breaking news about Newtown…and I shut that down too. I was weary from the sadness. Why, why, why all this tragedy and pain? At that time I had no idea that this violence was directly affecting my neighbors.
The day after the shooting I read the following on my Facebook feed, written by a friend; my children’s favorite baby sitter – the neighbor’s daughter.
Please pray for my family, especially my sister, brother-in-law, and niece, who suffered an unimaginable loss yesterday in the shooting. Life will never be the same without my nephew James, and words cannot begin to express our devastation. I love you Cindy, Mark, Anna, and James.
You know that feeling you get when your heart breaks in two? That sinking feeling? That feeling when all the blood rushes from your brain? When you know the most horrid, unimaginable, unthinkable thing has happened…to someone you love? That pit in your stomach. I still feel that ache just thinking about that day in Newtown.
That’s the same day the holiday magic left the neighbor’s yard…and the terrible sadness set in. Friends, neighbors, community felt the weight of that deep, dark, heavy sadness. The wonderful Christmas joy evaporated. For all of us. And we understood why the yard remained dark.
The following year our dear neighbors skipped the inflatable, glitzy decor and put up a much simpler set of decorations. Instead, they set up a beautiful tribute to the victims of Sandy Hook…a line of candy canes, one for each person killed, guarded by angels. So simple…but the difference between the previous year’s gala and the next year’s simplicity was poignant and striking. The family was grieving. Their loss occurred only 11 days before Christmas. The display marked the anniversary of that most horrible day with a clear message of love and hope.
For the last two year’s the holiday decorations have been the same angels and candy canes. I wondered how the family was getting along. The lovely Christmas candy canes reminded us that their lives were forever changed. They were due their privacy, so I wouldn’t ask. But I prayed for them…I still do. I prayed for the whole family, that the ache would lessen and some tiny bit of joy would return.
I wondered if we’d ever see the inflatable snowmen again.
A few weeks ago some of the old inflatables began appearing on the neighbor’s lawn. Then a few more. Each day I’d notice something new. Each day there’d be another cheery sign that some of the sadness had faded…or maybe they had an awareness that it was time to re establish the tradition of holiday decorating for the grand-kids. Or maybe a glimmer of memory about the way their young angel enjoyed Christmas with his family (and his family with him).
Whatever the reason, I can only wonder. But the Ferris wheel, toy train and snowmen are back, inflated, upright and standing strong. The candy canes and angels are there too. I think there are a few dozen more of them. This year’s holiday display is magnificent. I’m so pleased to see it.
God bless you, dear neighbors. Merry Christmas…