Later today, the throngs will be clogging the streets. Children will be studiously deaf to their parents demands to stop running, stay close, and to not touch things. Springdale is having its huge tree lighting ceremony, followed by the parade along Emma Avenue. For now, though, this downtown Christmas spectacle is mine. All that’s missing is a tinge of cold but its absence is a continued blessing as I wander the streets. Both sides of Emma are adorned with lit decorations, even at 4 in the morning. While there aren’t as many lights as I have in my living room, it’s still beautiful in the clear air. The stars were obscured by a thin cover of clouds. I didn’t care, though, because when you are enjoying something, it is as if the stars are shining inside. With the brilliance of the Xmas lights along Emma, it was easy to overlook.
I stood next to the massive downtown tree, admiring its wide ornaments. Later today, a thousand people will surround its base, waiting for the moment when the tree comes alive with dazzling light. I’ve already seen it though, this morning, in my imagination. Compared to that moment of imagining, its lights will be slightly faded. I can hear the murmur of contentment and possibly applause from the crown which will gather. This tree is another one of the great choices Springdale continues to make as it moves forward. Such spectacles are greater than the sum of the effort which created them.
Approaching the façade of the Apollo Theatre, I was singing along with “I Know What I Know” by The Monkees. Louder than expected, I learned. Someone popped out of the obstructed entrance to the bail bond shop on the street front. I finished singing the verse and curtsied toward whoever it was. I heard a laugh, which leads me to believe they decided I wasn’t crazy or dangerous – just a terrible singer. The person went around the corner and climbed in an SUV parked on the side street. I’d like to think whoever it was turned on their radio and sang along as they left. It’s darned near impossible to be unhappy while singing along to music you love.
As I passed the horrendous waffle/thunderchicken logo on the Chamber of Commerce building, I laughed. I’m always nervous about staring at it too long, in case it causes a round of spasms or nausea. It is always my hope that someone will have compassion on this logo and throw a blanket over it. (A concrete blanket, if you have one.)
At the house next to the Masonic Lodge and opposite City Hall, I saw animals scampering. As I passed in front of the house which sits close to the street, I was delighted to see that there were 2 raccoons frolicking in the yard, bordered by a perversely short chain-link fence. I chatted and cooed toward the raccoons and they lowered their guard and once again began scampering about as if playing a November game in the leave-strewn yard, a game whose rules were undisclosed.
The Tyson building across the tracks is a beautiful building. I didn’t think so until now, possibly due to being mostly completed and seeing it in the minimal light of the early morning. Much to the horror of the design engineers, I’m convinced that it is best appreciated on the park side, rather than from Emma. The glass foyer would be ideal to yodel or play music if such a thing were permitted. For a moment, I wonder what our previous mayor, the one I nicknamed Mr. Mumbles, would think of all of the bustle and beautification. It’s likely he wouldn’t recognize the bones of this city – and that’s a great thing.
Before leaving, I took my Spanish copy of “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” and walked over to the mini-library disguised as an upright bicycle. Since I almost always carry index cards or a notepad, I took a card and wrote “Merry Xmas -Enjoy a meal on me. Love, Slartibartfast” on it. I put four $5 dollar bills with the card and tucked them inside the book and placed it inside the holder. (Slartibartfast is a character from “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” if your life is too devoid of craziness to know. Next to “Beware of the leopard,” it’s one of the best words or phrases in our language.)
At home, I stood in the yard, watching the competing alternating tower beacons to the north. To the east, a large house decorated with Xmas lights illuminated the hillside. As the breeze caressed my face, I took a drink of coffee and felt a little sad for all the people who weren’t outside enjoying the spectacle of nothing special, even as it satisfied me. From behind me, I heard a meow and knew that my cat was peering at me through the gap in the office window.
If you have a few moments, drive through Emma and at least take a look at the tree dominating Shiloh Square. If not, take a moment and find a way to ignite something inside of yourself during the holiday season. Sing a song to a stranger, put vaseline in the slippers of your significant other, or watch for scampering raccoons in the most unlikely of places. Hide a gift where it might never be found, leave a present for someone you don’t know, or take someone you love or admire to the tree and share a moment. And, for the briefest of moments, imagine the ripples of these moments.