Christmastime. It's an adjective for some, a noun for others, and a verb for most of the Christian world. In the mid-1930's Coca-Cola illustrator Haddon Sundblom gave America its perfect commercial image of Santa. Soft drink sales boomed that winter. Since then retailers have flown with the man in red and Americans have been hooked on holiday cheer.
Lights, Santas, Elves, and Reindeer - made in China cheap and plentiful - are everywhere this time of year. Christmas is a break we all deserve. Dark corners, shelves, eaves, and window ledges sparkle with lights and decorations that celebrate the year as they annunciate our civility and hope.
Optimism is never more evident than at Christmas. No year has ever been more challenging than 2008, but still our lights twinkle. Like an "Obama 2008" lawn sign, this year's holiday glow promises a brighter tomorrow as it illuminates the final weeks of this rather dismal year.
Every year my neighbors, the Falks - Peter and Shera, the flamenco guitarist Charo, the residents of the long-time homes of Lucille Ball and Mr. "It's a Wonderful Life" himself- James Stewart, along with myself and a few other neighbors decorate our homes. I play an annual game with myself wondering how late Charo's cheer will stay up. Last year her decorations almost saw Martin Luther King Day, but finally her houseman dismantled them in the nick of time.
This year, by the second week of December our street glowed with wintertime promise. I joked with Shera about her slightly over-the-top front lawn with it's sleigh outlined in lights, six foot elves, and slightly gaudy nativity scene, "They're vintage" she'd retort, proud of her collection and resolute in her determination that every light function. We are proud to twinkle our homes for the tourists who look for idealism day and night in our infamously tony town.
Then one night it happened. Shera phoned to say someone had stolen her decorations from her front yard. The sleigh, elves, Santa, the singing choir of children, and even Mary, Joseph, the Three Wise Men, and baby Jesus in his lowly manger had been nabbed from their grassy stage. Impossible. Later, through her heavy accent Charo too announced her "Merry Christmas Happy Holidays" signs tiptoed off under the cover of night as well. Hmmmmm, Where is Columbo when you need him?
Two nights later it was my wreath.
I know it's not a big deal, but still, it's the epitome of the modern day Scrooge -- The Grinch couldn't have done worse any better. I'm not upset, instead I'm proud that new lights are soldiering along our Avenue. Still I can't resist a heavy sigh. I mean if America can't even trust twinkle lights in Beverly Hills, we all have a long way to go.