Editor’s note: 2020. While we have all experienced changes to our daily lives during the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also hopeful about what is coming for all of us in 2021. On that note, the Westfield News once again asked members of the WhipCity Wordsmiths to share some impressions and reflections for a writers’ series. The series continues with a submission by Susan Buffum of Westfield.
WESTFIELD-Susan Buffum is an author and artist best known for her holiday stories and ghost stories, and her 24th novel, Camden Lake, will be published this month.
In June of 2017, Buffum and her daughter, Kelly Buffum, founded the WhipCity Wordsmiths, a social and support networking group for writers at all levels of the craft.
Her submission for this series is titled “Christmas Light Cruising.”
Piling into the car and going to look at Christmas lights is a long-standing tradition in many families. My family was no different. On a Saturday night as Christmas Eve drew nearer Dad and Mom would have us bundle up. We’d pile into the station wagon (1960’s) and off we’d go to look at the lights downtown and in all the neighborhoods, often traveling into nearby cities and towns to admire their displays. Downtowns were especially festive with Christmas window displays, some with mechanical figures such as Santa Claus, others with beautifully decorated trees, or plastic choir boys caroling in a semi-circle. Our Christmas light sightseeing tour lasted for several hours. Although it was cold outside, the car heated up quickly with five of us crammed inside, Mom and Dad up front, the three of us packed shoulder to shoulder across the back seat. With frequent swipes of our sleeves across the steamy windows, we craned our heads left and right, leaned forwards and sideways to see past the adult heads in the front seat. Despite the often limited visibility from inside the crowded car it was nonetheless a magical night driving around oohing and ahhing at all the holiday displays.
As my sister , brother, and I grew and got our driver’s licenses (late 1970’s, early ‘80’s) Mom and Dad stayed home while the three of us went out looking at lights, cruising the same streets, neighborhoods, and downtowns we’d toured as kids, enjoying the new lighting, new displays as technology had improved. Occasionally, Dad would take Mom out to drive around looking at lights, but the tradition had passed to the next generation.
We grew up, got married, and went out looking at Christmas lights with our spouses. John and I had a daughter in 1991. As she grew up we’d take her out every December to cruise the city and its neighborhoods to check out all the lighting displays. Ridgecrest, Shaker Heights, and Eastwood Acres were favorite neighborhoods to cruise through. As Kelly grew, Hallmark Heights was added. We lived in Eastview Heights, so we’d tour our own neighborhood on the way home.
Soon John chose to stay home. I took Kelly out to continue the tradition. We had our favorite places to go to see the lights. We liked a certain house on Gail Drive. Then we discovered the holiday extravaganza on Indian Ridge Trail quite by accident. Every year we’d pause in front of our favorite houses and give a quick toot of the horn as we pulled away to continue cruising.
Much too quickly it was newly licensed Kelly driving me around the city to look at Christmas lights. And yes, the tradition of pausing in front of our favorite decorated homes continued only this time is was Kelly giving the horn a quick toot before pulling away as a show of our appreciation of their lighting display.
John and I are empty nesters now. We may or may not go out to look at Christmas lights. However, Kelly is continuing the tradition now that she has a home of her own. But, this year we will have to go out to look at all the lights since decorating one’s home has become a family thing to do as COVID prevents us from having Christmas parties and big family gatherings. Holiday decorating and cruising around to look at lighting and displays has become our norm in 2020, a safe way to have a little fun. So many imaginative and beautiful, fun and festive displays have lit up Westfield and surrounding communities. If possible, try to get out and take a Christmas light cruise this year as part of your holiday celebration.