By: Stephanie Reynolds
Hello, y’all! I hope you are having a fabulously wonderful, blessed, beautiful day!
We are busy here getting ready for the North Pole Stroll — when people, groups, or businesses sponsor a Christmas tree in our park so everyone can enjoy them in December.
Okay, “sponsor” threw me when I first got here. What this means is for $100, we provide a tree, a cute sign, and electricity (OH! Since it’s for lights on a Christmas tree, would that be “elecTREEcity”? Teehee!).
I am so incredibly eager for this. It’s such a supportive, encouraging event for the community. It celebrates family and memories and causes and businesses in an atmosphere of beauty and delight.
I LOVE that some businesses use this as a way to give back to the community by supporting us as we support Athens (thank you so much!) and to provide a beautiful bit of Christmas delight to those who come visit.
LOVE that some people sign up because they are celebrating the memory of a family member or friend. To think of how each ornament is layered with meaning upon meaning–an outpouring of their love. The tree is a glowing, brilliant testament to someone we may have never met. I’m always a little sorrowed that I never met someone who was so well loved, but how poignant it is that I can celebrate that person with the family, praying for all, to know that the memory of a person is being preserved even by strangers. What a beautiful thing!
I LOVE the advocacy and other groups who, with souls founded in mission and jaws set with determination, shine through the cracks of our little daily shells with rays of purpose. Kudos to you!
I LOVE that we have artists and enthusiasts (I LOVE enthusiasm!) who offer their creative heart to the community. They could have easily hid their (Christmas) lights under bushels, but instead share them with us. You’re fabulous!
And lastly, I LOVE that families use this as a way to build memories. That sounds cliché, but as a military kid and then military wife, we were often far from family. If one has not spent many Christmases away from home, one might not understand how precious and beautiful traditions and memories are. It’s really important to have roots in the ground and arms in the sky, ya’ know?
Speaking of Christmas memories, one my favorites was in our last year in North Pole (well, the Air Force base right outside it).
First of all, Christmas in North Pole is just as amazing as it sounds. Not better than here, not worse, but very different.
Of course there’s always snow. Now, don’t be thinking deep drifts like a postcard. No, this is powder dry and rarely deep. You can sweep it off your porch. Amazingly enough, the first year we were there I signed up for a survival class, but there wasn’t enough snow to build a snow shelter…in December…in North Pole, Alaska. Yes, really.
Where we lived is actually an “Arctic desert”—we got surprising little precipitation. But there’s always some snow in the winter and the streets are hard-packed for months. Between the snow and white trunks of the birch trees, it’s almost light enough to read outside when the full moon is shining. Then when the Christmas lights come out in the season, it is absolutely amazing at night. The white snow glistens with colored sparkles like the ground is awash in opal dust.
One night when we had just moved on base for our last year in Alaska, I happened to see colored lights glinting off the snow from a firetruck one block over, but there was no siren. I somehow realized that it was a parade.
“KIDS! There’s a PARADE!” I hollered through the house as I grabbed a coat and* ran out the door, not even bothering to put on boots. I ran down the road and between houses with globs of snow clinging to my blue fuzzy socks, following a kaleidoscope trail till I reached the street the parade was on.
[*As I was talking to my daughter about this article, she informed me that I did not, in fact, put on a coat. No boots, no coat. In her words: “I went ‘Are you in just your socks?’ and you grinned and crossed your arms to keep warm and went ‘yeah’ in that ‘Well of course I am.’ tone you usually use with me when you are doing something that I disapprove of for safety reasons.” Mea culpa.]
My cildren are less impulsive than I, and took the time to put on boots and coats, then had to hustle to catch up. We caught the tail end of the Christmas parade, breathless and flushed with the run, laughing as one does when a delight is sudden and beautiful and breaks up a humdrum day. It’s one of my favorite memories with the kids at Christmas.
I am excited to make new memories with you this year! Come see me at the Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association and sign up for your tree (they need to be decorated by November 28). Then starting December 1, we can all enjoy our North Pole Stroll in our fuzzy blue socks if we want to.
By: Stephanie Reynolds, Athens-Limestone Tourism Association