Christmas lights remind me of my dad. When I was young and he would drive me to and from evening activities, we would play a game of estimating the number of lit houses we would pass during our commute. Before departing our location, each of us would hedge a guess and then as we drove, I’d count aloud the number of adorned houses with their decorative lights on. Dad would help me spot the houses too, but as the driver focused on the road, eyeing the properties was primarily my role. I had very little patience in the car and drives were always boring, that is, except for the month or so when we could play the Christmas lights game. Suddenly, the drives became more fun and felt shorter. Even though all of my activities were located in a relatively small radius around my hometown, my ADHD or some other cause always made them feel epic. I think that was the secret to my success. In all of the years we played, over each and every drive, I think my record was one loss; Dad always underestimated. I would either overestimate or underestimate but my guess was always closer, save for the one upset. Either I had more confidence that people partake in holiday decorations or I envisioned a longer drive than Dad because of my concept of a “long time” in the car, but I was always choosing higher numbers and beating him. (We didn’t have any sort of rule that if you’re guess was exceeded, you automatically lost. It was simply closest guess wins.)
The reason I look back fondly on those drives isn’t because of my clear dominance in the game and enjoyment of racking up victories, although that was a nice perk. Instead, I cherish the beautiful memories of those times in the car with Dad. Often going to and from oboe lessons, my job in town, or practice. We’d blast the heat in the car and listen to the radio, often the smooth voice of Delilah and the love songs she DJ’ed. We’d talk a little about our days and comment on how tasteful or gaudy the holiday decorations appeared. I’m glad to have such a beautiful memory with something so ubiquitous this time of year. Since I hate winter, the Christmas lights are a bright spot, an oasis in that sea of discomfort. Each lit house I see reminds me of the love that filled our house when I was young, about the bonds we share as a family, and about the magic of the season.