To redeem myself from my failure earlier in the day, Saturday evening I walked the boys up to the center of town to take in the tree-lighting festivities. There was a lot of advertising leading up to the event, which may have resulted in larger-than-usual crowds; I don't know, since I'd never been before. It was certainly joyfully well-attended!
In all that dark throng I was a little nervous about losing one of the boys as we waited for the lights to come on, but we managed to stay together; huddling on the church steps (huddling against the crowds, not the weather—it was quite warm) we sipped free hot chocolate and listened to snatches of music coming through the very insufficient sound system. At some point Citizen-of-the-Year Peter Grey must have arrived to push the button, since without warning all the trees were illuminated. I think everyone was surprised, but cheerfully so!
Moments later Santa pulled up riding a fire truck, and spotting him early we were able to position ourselves perfectly for an up-close look as he disembarked. Even better, as the crowd streamed away after him we were able to enjoy an even closer look at the fire truck, which frankly had more appeal to the boys than a guy in a red suit. (We didn't yet know that his elves—surprisingly tall elves—were giving out candy-canes.)
Somehow we managed to run across some friends, and together we explored a few of the local businesses that were opened for the festivities. Suzanne and Co. had a man in a Frosty the Snowman suit (which captivated and terrified Lijah in equal measure) and a lovely bubble-snow machine (since when do we need simulated snow in New England?!); the Old Town Hall offered chili from the new restaurant in town and balloons and worksheets from the tutoring place. There were other vendors there too, but all boring stuff, and the boys and I agreed that it was a pretty poor show. At least there was room to run around and play with their balloons; and after a little while a quartet arrived and started to sing in the stairwell.
Maybe a strange spot, but the acoustics were lovely and we very much enjoyed several Christmas tunes with not a syllable of English between them.
True happiness escaped us, however—escaped Zion especially—because many other people had candy-canes and we did not. I told the boys that candy-canes are plentiful this time of year, but they wouldn't be satisfied with anything but a candy-cane right then, from Santa. Julen had one. Then as we were crossing back to the common we saw him: nearly all alone in the darkness, accompanied only by his elves and a man with a dog. After the dog got his picture taken on Santa's lap it was our turn, and I'm sure the peppermint was all the sweeter for the wait.
Of course the boys didn't want anything at all to do with Santa once they had their candy, but Julen is made of sterner stuff and actually sat on the bearded one's lap. Unfortunately, it was quite dark, and I wasn't prepared, so the photo I took... isn't really that good.
But we were there! We did the thing. And back home, as Leah was going to bed, Lijah needed to spend quite a while telling Mama about his experiences. "Santa? Santa? Snowman?" It was pretty intense for the little guy.
The lights look very nice; we admired them again this evening. It's definitely starting to feel Christmas-y around here... maybe I should start thinking about what I'm going to do for presents?