Monday, December 20, 2010

Apparently, Trails of Lights Have an Age Requirement

The age requirement wasn't stated by the natural science museum that was hosting the event, actually. It may not even be an age requirement so much as an age/gender/temperament requirement. All I know is that last night I'd planned a relaxing stroll through a Holiday Trail of Lights, which Monkey Boy quickly turned into, "Mommy, hurry! We have to pass this family if we're going to win the race!" Really. Seriously. My son decided that the lights were not so much to inspire quiet reflection on the spirit of the season as they were markers for the Christmas Grand Prix 2010. Again, my sense of sympathy for his Kindergarten teacher is renewed.

Let me start by saying this: Any event that is held after dark out in the (relative) wilds of Texas really needs good directional markings on the roads leading in. It took us over an hour to make the 30 minute drive to the museum, simply because we unwittingly missed one turn and ended up in a different tiny town. Classic quotes when I stopped to ask for directions at a gas station:

Me: "We're trying to find the turn for 399 in McKinney."

Attendant: "This is Melissa."

Me: "Do you know where 399 is?"

Attendant: "No."

Um, yeah, thanks for that.

The event itself was pretty cool. As a local community band played in the open air amphitheater, resounding throughout the trail, strings of what looked like large red and green tree lights led us down the dark trail. Lanterns of various shapes and sizes lit the tree branches above us (such as the star on the left that I managed to get a decent shot of!). Young couples pushes strollers with their cooing infants and toddlers down the trail. Other couples held gloved hands and sipped hot chocolate as they meandered down the path, no doubt whisperings sweet nothings to each other as their heads came together and they laughed softly. And then there was us. I'd asked one of our young friends (15) from church to come with us, as I was worried about losing Monkey on a dark night if we went alone, and K is always fun to chat with. Little did we know that, as soon as we handed Monkey the safety flashlight, he'd become Cartman from Southpark, trying to flex his "authori-tah" and clearing the path for running the imaginary race.

When we came upon the little cabin where Father Christmas and Mother Nature were waiting to take pictures with small people, I had the most intense flashback to my own early childhood in Switzerland, walking out into the forest with my parents and my older sister to find Samichlaus and his scary sidekick, Schmutzli. It wasn't just a memory, I could actually see the candles twinkling through the forest, smell the pine and the tangy scent of freshly-opened oranges from the hands of other children who'd found Samichlaus and received their reward for the year's good behavior. I saw my sister hiding behind my father's legs when Schmutzli, with his coal-smudged face and bundle of twigs for spanking naughty children, appeared out of the dark. K seemed interested in this story. Monkey did not. He was far too busy stalking a double stroller and attempting to pass it on the right.

Oh well, at least I learned something: Monkey is too young for holiday trails of lights. Or he needs a Xanax before we go next year. Did I mention we got lost again on the way home? It was actually a pretty awesome night :-)

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