Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Lights and Shepherds

We used to have a small community near our small town that covered the landscape in Christmas lights. Floodtown wasn't a town, by charter ~ just a community. People came from miles around to drive through the curvy little back roads of Floodtown and see the lights. Truly, it was a wonderland! Oh, there was no rhyme or reason to the design. This was not the result of a city-council committee or town planning. No, the local residents just took it upon themselves, each, to outshine the other. Floodtown Road started as an unlit back road that curved into nowhere. But suddenly, you came over the top of a hill and ~ there is no way to describe it. There was a sea of lights, a magical place, a wonderland. Strands of lights draped from tall lampposts. Lights covered each house and trailer. Statues stood in the yards and statuesque forms were built of lights. Homemade cup-lights adorned trees. Light-filled candy canes hung from eaves. For the next half mile, the landscape was awash with Christmas lights.

For thirty years, this was the tradition in my town. Everyone drove through Floodtown. It was the thing to do. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, the travellers would come. The little road went from being the road less travelled to having a steady stream that lasted from November till January. It amused and amazed me, driving down Old CCC Camp Road and seeing the long line of cars, but even us locals couldn't resist cutting through Floodtown most nights. If you had children in the car, it was a must. If you were not a child, it made you feel like one again.

The traffic got noticed. I suppose, at first, it was seen as a curse. Perhaps it was discussed in nearby Eton. Residents could have protested, I suppose, but instead they must have figured: "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!" City residents began to put up lights.

A few years ago, something began to change in Floodtown. There weren't as many lights. It didn't seem quite as magical. We discussed the probable cause: electric bills, family illnesses. The electric bills had been rumored for years, but in various ways, people had overcome the expense. Once a local radio station even footed the bill. It was seen to be a community thing. But year before last, there was a drastic change. The little kingpin house, the one just below the first hill, had no lights. They were not just turned off, they were gone. I sensed that perhaps the people had died. There were new people in the house. There were no lights. Although a couple of surrounding trailers made a valiant effort, the effect just wasn't the same. It appeared that the Floodtown tradition was over.

Nearby Eton, by then, had become accustomed to being the Christmas town. Out-of-towners stopped constantly, asking, "Where is Floodtown? Where are the lights?" (Floodtown itself is on no map. You just have to know how to get there). So, Eton began to present an annual light show. It is nice. It is fun. But it is not Floodtown. It is not magical, not a wonderland. Perhaps over time, it will be. But there is something very mathematical about the organization of it all. Floodtown just... happened. But what Eton did is nice for the kids, and certainly helps dispel the letdown of those who travelled from a distance to see Floodtown.

On the opposite scale of things, though, there is quiet simplicity. Topping a hill on a private drive at Cohutta Springs, recently, I was greeting by the pleasant shapes of shepherds, kneeling beside mangers. The Christmas decorations were cut out of plain wood and painted white. There was a Bible and a star, also cut out of wood. Everything was very still and quiet, and there was something magical in that simplicity... a reminder, perhaps, of the true meaning of Christmas.


Anonymous said...

I hate to hear that. One of my co-workers is in Chatworth this weekend and I told her she had to go see it!

Jennifer said...

Thank you for giving information on what happened with Flood town. I have looked and looked for two years to find out what has happened and I finally came across your blog!
I am glad I got to go twice to see the magical wonderland of lights. It is disappointing that it has fizzled.