Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas in Cleveland: West Side Style

They can be spotted from blocks away, exploding with electric Christmas color, unfettered holiday spirit, and every brilliant bit of discount drugstore decor ever sold, illuminating the night these last few weeks of the year. Tiny city lots with hardly enough space for a bed of petunias in the summer, come December, sprout crops of candy canes and nutcracker soldiers, inflatable snowmen and giant snow globes. Every square foot that can be adorned is arrayed in festive glitz. The snobbishly aesthetic are horrified by the excess, but I am both amazed and intrigued.

Each year my best friend, Susan, and I dedicate one evening to our holiday light tour. Never interested in the placidly pretty, we steer away from the white mini-lights of the ever-so-tasteful suburbs and head into the city. For the most part, the west side of Cleveland tends to be more exuberant in their displays than the east side, although Slavic Village on the south side of town has a good number of folks who go all-out, layering their yards with decorations from several holidays. Who ever came up with that stupid concept of "less is more" ? I'm willing to bet they weren't from Cleveland.

We used to take our children with us, before they became teenagers and had cooler peers to hang out with, and now, occasionally, we will bring other people. But we often find it difficult to convince the less adventurous to veer off of Cleveland's main thoroughfares and into the neighborhoods at night. "You two are crazy" they say, as if that's something we haven't heard before. Last year we brought our friend, Plain Dealer columnist, Joanna Connors on our city lights tour, and she was so fascinated by this display on Pearl Road that she interviewed the homeowner later in the week for her column. The main point of curiosity (besides of course "Why?") being "Where do you store all this stuff?"

This side yard in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, although not an ostentatious light show, I found was especially charming. Already full of lawn ornaments, even the decorations were decorated. The Christmas season for many people is a time of celebration and hope. We decorate our homes in an effort to make the personal spaces around us reflect the spirit of love, kindness, generosity, and joy, inspired by the season. Our homes mirror our attitudes. Ironically, neither Susan nor I have Christmas lights in our yards.

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Anonymous said...

I remember you telling me about this when I was student teaching! I wish I was there to go on that trip with you. Living in Cincinnati now. I live near the city- there are some interesting sights here too.
I give you and Carrie all credit for my teaching. Whenever I get a compliment I say it is because of my two mentors MaryBeth and Carrie. I teach at a special needs school- so it's like that 2nd period class we had with the 30 special needs kids all together. Except now I don't get more than fifteen at a time.
Love, Alice

marybeth said...

Wow! Alice!

How great to hear from you!
Thanks for your kind words, and the update. I would love to hear more about your adventures in the Cincinnati schools. Please write again if you get a few minutes.

I hope you have the best holidays and all good things come to you this new year.