Growing up my family always did holidays differently. And by that I mean that from year to year no two were ever alike, at least not that I remember. When I was younger, like lots of families with extended relatives out of town, we would fly to Florida to eat turkey among the palm trees or maybe meet up at a half way point to ring in the New Year. I come from a family that’s super close and where there’s a lot of love, so I never minded our non-traditional way of doing the holidays, our tradition seemed to be that we were always together.
But then as you continue to get older, things continue to change. There’s the normal, expected changes of heading off to college, the fun, exciting changes of your brother excelling exceedingly well at a sport, and then there’s the hard, life-altering changes of God calling home a family member before you’re ready to see them go. But whichever type of change your life experiences, it further alters the way your holidays are spent.
While in college, I spent the holidays in six (maybe seven) different cities. I ate Thanksgiving dinner at a Cracker Barrel, Christmas lunch at a TGI Fridays, and set around multiple tables with people with far different backgrounds from my own, sometimes with my whole family, sometimes not. It’s at this point I decided that my tradition, was having no tradition.
I should mention that I did create a Thanksgiving tradition for myself at some point along the way. I have always been captivated by the Macy’s Parade, so each year, including this one, I set my alarm and curl up in whatever bed I am in and watch the pageantry and entertainment this classic event provides. You see, this is a transferable tradition, it doesn’t matter where I am at, this parade comes to me. It’s also important to note, that with Ronny Powell around we will always stay at places that offer the standard conveniences of a first world country, i.e. cable.
But when it came to Christmas, I was quite certain I had no tradition. We have never hid an ornament on the tree, there’s no special food we always have, a game of dirty Santa has never been played, and the same movie is not watched each year. Then, as I was talking to my co-worker the other day, it dawned on me there was something I have done every year, or rather some place I have gone.
I would hope that all Northwest Alabama residents have experienced the magic and joy that 4170 Ricks Lane in Leighton brings to visitors each Christmas season. Known simply to most of us as The Wright’s Lights, this brightly lit creation has been bringing me wonder and delight for over twenty years. There has not been one single holiday season that I did not make it out to this iconic Christmas wonderland to experience the lights and fantasy this home creates.
I can vividly remember my grandparents taking me out each Christmas as a child in my grandmother’s Oldsmobile, after a dinner at Catfish Haven or Newberns (still love this place). I would always plaster my head against the window right after we made the turn off Three Mile Lane, just waiting for the brightness. Each time we would come upon lights I would ask “is this it..is that it…” and each year I was never prepared for the neon spectacular that lay as far as my eye could see. To my six-year-old self this place was as close to the North Pole as I could get and got me so excited for Santa to come I could never be still… truthfully I was usually hanging out the window!
As I grew older, nothing changed, it moved from my grandparents taking me, to me loading up in my Ford Escape with my closest girlfriends in our PJS and a thermos of coffee. When I brought friends home with me for Christmas in college, we would all pile in my dad’s Yukon and I would anxiously anticipate their priceless faces. Sure, how good could a home Christmas display in small town Alabama be? I knew that’s what everyone was thinking…and every time my friends could not reach for their phones quick enough to document the amazingness that lay before them.
Now, I’m 26, married, and a Memphis resident, but tomorrow night I can assure you, you will find my dad’s white Suburban loaded down with me, my husband, 21 year old brother, and mom and dad making the brightly lit circle. The thing is, I may not be six anymore, but I am pretty sure we are all big kids trapped in a grown-ups body, and The Wrights makes me feel like magic still exists and that all that’s wrong in the world can be Wrighted with a field full of Christmas lights…and in a crazy world like this, it’s a feeling worth hanging on to!
So, Wright Family, from my family to yours, thank you and Merry Christmas!