Piece of Mind: It's an illuminating time of year

A desire to kick-start a more cheerful holiday attitude than I was left in following the infamous Windstorm of ’11 led me to take a drive through town Tuesday night in search of front-yard Christmas displays.

I didn’t hit every street, to be sure (Gil kept calling my cell phone, asking how soon dinner would be served), so I no doubt missed some excellent electronic wizardry before heading home. But what I did see was impressive, particularly at some homes. Thanks, if you are among those who spend time, money and effort putting on a show for your neighbors. Couldn’t help but notice that Mayor Dave Spence is among the Christmas light enthusiasts as I passed by his home on Vista del Valle.

I have to admit I felt a tinge of disappointment when cruising along the street of my childhood. There aren’t nearly as many holiday lights up in the neighborhood as there were back in the day. The house I grew up in was pitch dark the other night, seemingly not even a lamp on indoors. I stopped my car across the street from it and tried to remember in my mind’s eye how it had looked on a typical December night of the 1960s and ‘70s.

The kindest way to put it was that it was colorful. We had some schlocky decorations, including a huge, illuminated, disembodied Santa face that my dad, the only one brave enough among us to climb onto the roof, used to affix to our brick chimney. Below Santa’s gaze, standing on either side of our front stoop, were two 4-foot-high plastic choir boys with blond hair, holding tan-colored hymnals. These cherubic figures were illuminated from within (electrically speaking, not necessarily spiritually so.) Although their white-trimmed red robes were chipped from many Christmas seasons spent outdoors, their ruby lips were intact and formed perfect circles, as though they were about to burst forth with a duet of “O Holy Night.”

On the eaves, across the front of the house and around both sides that are visible from the street, my father used to string those big, multi-color C-9 light bulbs every Christmas season. He’d throw extra strands around trees and bushes for good measure. “We need more!” he’d say, plugging strands together to increase the yard’s overall wattage.

There was always a colorful wreath on the front door and, to finish it all off, one of us (usually me, once I reached about 12) would wind bright red electrical tape, about three-quarters of an inch wide, around the white iron banister that assisted visitors climbing the staircase from the street to our threshold. This gave the visual effect of an unusually shaped candy cane. I do not know why Mom endorsed this look, as she had rather sophisticated taste when it came to home decor. But if I’m remembering correctly, it was she who would buy that tape for us, without any prompting.

Having spent enough time reminiscing, and worried people peeking out from their windows might think I was stalking someone, I started the car back up and headed home, enjoying those residences along the way that were quite aglow. Arriving at our address, I appraised our own feeble efforts so far this year as any passerby might see it: one lonely strand of clear lights across the front of the house — the same look we had last year when we were feeling uninspired.

Gil greeted me at the door and I commented on how boring our house looks compared to some others around the city. “We’ll get more!” he said — and I brightened up.

CAROL CORMACI is managing editor of the La Cañada Valley Sun. She can be reached at ccormaci@valleysun.net or carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

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