December 19, 2009 10:06:00 PM
Birney Imes - [email protected]
"Walk slowly, I''ll catch up with you."
I had asked daughter Tanner if she wanted to walk and look at Christmas lights on Southside. First she had said no, then had a last minute change of heart and yelled to me as I walked out the door.
Earlier that evening we''d all been to see grandson Benjamin as a fluffy Frosty the Snowman in his preschool Christmas program; we were in the spirit. So was one of his classmates, a reindeer, who stayed in character throughout, running amok across the stage and through the audience the entire program. Benjamin''s teachers, who I expect have seen their share of runaway reindeer, carried on as though it was part of the show.
There is something very American in the variety of ways we express ourselves with colored lights at Christmas time. Be it the aching poignance of a single strand of lights draped around a doorway of a four-room clapboard house or a wrap-everything-but-the-dog extravaganza, yard decorations are holiday gifts we make for family, friends and strangers.
Lizzie Clemmons, a good-natured woman who is perfectly cast as a greeter at Wal-Mart, has again, with the help of her son, Carlos, made her yard a must-see destination for Christmas light cruisers. Lizzie''s holiday menagerie at 820 10 Ave. S. is as neat as her house. And as full (More than a dozen images of roosters keep watch over Lizzie''s kitchen. "I like roosters," she explained.).
"I just can''t get up and get it like I used to," Lizzie said. From the looks of her yard, you could never tell.
On the other side of Lizzie''s block at 803 11th Ave. S., Turner "T.J." Jackson and his wife Audra have decorated their yard in what he calls an "America, we''re on board" theme. It''s a red, white and blue thing," he says. The purple lights on the reindeer represent fallen soldiers, he said.
Friday evening the Jacksons, both dressed in red, were in a celebratory mood. That afternoon Audra, after more than 30 years on the job, had retired from CAFB as a procurement systems administrator.
A few blocks east and south of the Jacksons at 1108 13th St. S., Janice Renee Smith celebrated the season Thursday evening with her door open and the music of the rapper T.I. blaring into the night. "I cut back because of the recession," Smith said.
Recession or not, Smith has strung red lights across her porch, swirled two strands around the low branches of a nearby magnolia and decorated her windows with angels her mother, Janette Smith, brought from Noweta''s Flowers where she works.
Like Renee''s angels, chances are few people will see the six small singing Santas leading to Theressa Payne''s front door at 1505 12th Ave. S. Payne bought them on the Home Shopping Club four years ago in an after-Christmas sale.
While two favorite mega-light displays are no longer around, William "Jonesy" Jones on Seventh Street and the Cantrells near Caledonia, there are plenty of reasons to turn off the TV, step away from the computer and load up family and friends to venture out into the night in search of lights.
Before I offer destinations, I encourage you to explore while you''re out. Don''t be afraid to turn down a promising though unfamiliar road. No one''s going to write you up for getting lost. A small luminary flourish on an otherwise dark street can be just as inspiring as an expansive outlay.
-- Carl and Lisa Garrett at 1780 Oswalt Road have a light display set to music that could only be the work of an electrical engineer, which Carl happens to be. Tens of thousands of lights here. You get there off of Crowe Road, which connects Highway 69 with Yorkville Road or from New Hope Road. Expect some traffic. From town take 69 toward Aliceville. Crowe is on your left just before the turn to Lake Lowndes. Oswalt is the first right.
--Gill Harris at 221 Warpath Road is also an engineer. Each year Gill refines his "hyperboloid paraboloid" manger (Don''t even bother trying to look it up; just go see Gill''s creation if you''re curious). Just north of Columbus High.
--Idella Bankhead on 16th Avenue North just off Military has her usual yard full of inflatables.
--I''ve not made it to Caledonia this year, but if the past is any guide, there''s plenty to see downtown and on Wolfe Road between town and Military Road.
--Charlene and Jimmy Cook''s yard at the intersection of Ben Christopher and Fondren Drive is full of magic. Continue west on Ben Christopher -- that''s Jimmy''s daughter Lisa Richardson on the left at 337. Lisa in her own style is carrying on the family Christmas obsession. Ben Christopher runs into Mac Davis, which will take you to a pasture of Christmas cows on the left belonging to Tom and Mitzi Green. Mitzi has the story for you to read on a yard sign. Mac Davis is also accessible from 182 on the right just past the Playmore Club.
--The Dispatch Web site has a map where readers post their favorite Christmas light displays. Please add yours.
So, what are you waiting for? If you must, run a Mapquest search, grab a Christmas CD or two, grandchildren, family or friends. Folks have spent a lot of time, money and effort creating a Christmas light show for you. Go ahead, get out there, get in the spirit.
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.