A Christmas Memory From The Firestone Store

It was a cold and rainy Saturday morning recently when I proceeded to turn my front yard and home into a display of holiday gaudiness. The weather for the past several days had been above average in temperature, but on the one day I had to create my masterpiece of holiday cheer, the winds were out of the north and rain was falling like something from an old navy movie during a gale.
As I struggled with major rain gear and a large lighted deer that continually tried to take sail with me in the blustery winter chill, I wondered out loud as I do each time I do this, why do we put ourselves through these days of turning our property into some kind of zoning regulation violation? It is hard work, causes the neighbors to question why they have bought a piece of property next to the man who evidently tried to help Ernest save Christmas and gives you an opportunity to be an electrical genius without any training.
What makes us put giant plastic candles on our front porches, or eight foot tall Santas hooked to electric fans and tied down like a dirigible? Why do we risk our lives and place icicle lights all around the house that stay up year-round, and put in our front yards lighted deer that blow over during winter storms?
This year I did do something different. Since losing my wife to cancer last year, I added a pink-lighted “For The Cure” doe to my front yard display in her memory. She always got a kick out of my Christmas yard display adventures and I wanted to add something just for her. While I put the pink doe next to my two newly-acquired life-like movable lighted deer, I reflected back to when I was a child growing up on our rural countryside farm. In the late fifties Christmas lights on doorways and houses were something you may have seen in nearby cities, but not on the farms in our area. I’ve told this story before, but this is the season for repeating Christmas memories and here is one of mine.
Of course, everyone placed their lighted live cedar Christmas trees in front of a window or as close as possible so it could be seen from the outside, but yard decorations were just not that prevalent back then. I remember the visits to town at Christmas time and seeing the storefronts full of lights and Christmas decorations. The homes along Main Street were always beautifully decorated with evergreens and lights. As a small child those homes were a wonderment of holiday excitement and hopes.
One year, about three weeks before Christmas day, my mother and father arrived home from a trip into town. As they unpacked their purchases from their trip to town, they pulled out two long boxes that were decorated with Christmas trees and had the logo of GE on the front of each box. The boxes had come from the Firestone store where my father bought everything.
Each box contained a strand of 12 outdoor Christmas lights of multi-colors. Of course, they were the kind that if one burnt out they all would go out, but they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen. My mother had saved back some special “Christmas money” to buy the lights and to add some holiday cheer to our Tennessee farmhouse.
My father cut cedar greenery and helped us nail it around the front door. Then he and my sister attached the lights to each side of the doorway and ran a brown extension cord to an electrical outlet on the single light bulb socket located on the porch. Each bulb was checked and the lights tested to see if they worked. After passing all tests, our outside display now waited for sundown.
I’ll never forget standing in that dark and cold December night in our front yard as my mother turned on the porch light switch. It was as big of an event to me as the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center in New York City.
When the lights came on their blues, greens, reds, and yellows blended just right with the cedar greenery on the doorway. As a small boy it signaled to me that the Christmas season had arrived.
For years we used those lights from the Firestone store. They soon lost the paint from around the bulbs and you could see light through the cracks in their paint, but they still announced the arrival of the season to our rural countryside.
So, I guess that is why I still put up my Christmas lights each year. To announce to others that the season has arrived at our house and to renew those same feelings I felt standing in that cold front yard many Christmases ago – a feeling of belonging and being loved by a family who cared to express the joy of the holiday season.
– Pettus L. Read is editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pread@tfbf.com