I was very honored and humbled to have this story published in
"A Family Christmas: Handmade Gifts and Heartfelt Stories".
CHRISTMAS ON MAIN STREET
By Karen Danner
I had a wonderful time in my town Saturday night. I live at the top of Old Stoney Hill on the outskirts of Miamisburg. It takes about 5 minutes to get to our "downtown", and in the evening when the streetlights are glowing, the view of the town from our hill is simply breathtaking. Our Main Street is coming back to life, with new businesses and refurbished storefronts. It's not quite there yet, but the town is beginning to shine again.
I had been doing errands - grocery shopping, cat care for a friend on vacation, and visits to a couple thrift stores and a church bazaar. After errands were done, I came back into town to find all roads leading downtown were blocked by the local police. Since I needed to drive through that area to get up Stoney Hill to my neighborhood, that situation presented a problem. I remembered reading about the Christmas Parade of Lights and then realized why the traffic had come to a standstill. While I had been driving around trying to find another way home, I had brief glimpses of floats, bands, and fire trucks lined up in preparation for their entrance onto Main Street. Since I couldn’t find an easy route home, I decided to find a parking space and stay downtown to enjoy the parade and festivities. I was very glad I did.
As I’d worked my way toward Market Square, I had driven past historic Library Park and enjoyed seeing the gazebo ablaze with white lights. Every tree in the park had been lit with similar white lights. As I passed St. Jacob’s church, I noticed hay bales, chickens, and sheep under a tree in the churchyard. I realized the church was going to present a living nativity that night. Memories started flooding back and I began to think of the times I had participated in living nativities at the church I attended as a youth. I don't think we ever had live animals in our settings, but I do remember how cold it was to stand outside on Christmas Eve, then breathlessly rush back inside the church to prepare to sing in the choir for the Candlelight services. That was a long time ago.
On Main Street, a carousel had been set up in front of the white brick Market Square building in the center of town and white lights had been strung on all the buildings, most of them outlining the windows and doorways. The old-fashioned lampposts had been decorated with green wreaths and red bows, and a small Christmas tree had been placed in each of the big cement flowerpots that were on the street corners. People had begun to gather and find their parade-viewing spots on each side of Main Street. Shops were open and playing Christmas music and the old Hamburger Wagon was doing a healthy business. The only thing that could have made the setting more exciting was if snowflakes had begun to fall. Anticipation was building and everyone I encountered seemed to be in a festive mood. The song, “It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas", played over and over in my head.
Little ones were asking when they were going to see Santa and parents were trying to keep their youngsters occupied until parade time. Roving vendors were offering cones of cotton candy and bags of roasted peanuts for sale. A quartet of strolling carolers dressed in 1800's style clothes was singing Christmas carols on the street corners and in the shops, and Santa's elves dressed in green outfits with jingle bells on their hats and shoes were handing out candy canes to children.
As I walked from my parking spot into the center of town, I encountered tables draped with festive red cloths and filled with delicious-looking baked goods. A member of the local Historical Society was offering brownies and frosted Christmas cookies. I asked how much she was charging for the brownies, and to my surprise, she said, "Everything is free". I chose a chocolate-frosted brownie, thanked her, and wished her Merry Christmas. I browsed through the shops that were offering their very finest vintage Christmas wares – Shiny Brite ornaments, twinkling lights, silver aluminum trees, old world Santas, and all sorts of antiques and collectables, which might have been remnants from the lives of the people who used to live in the historic homes in the area. The famous Maguire Sisters used to live on Main Street and their home remains one of the nicest ones in the town. I'm told it looks pretty much as it did when they and their mother resided there.
I found a place to stand on the sidewalk in front of an antique shop and struck up a conversation with the woman next to me. Her son was a drummer in the high school band and she was so proud of him. This was to be his first parade. I asked her if she was going to embarrass him by calling out his name as he marched past us. She said, "Of course, that's why I'm here!". We laughed and when her son marched past us, we both waved at him and she called out his name.
Perhaps I'm just a sucker for parades or maybe it was the holiday spirit swirling all around me, but when the parade came by, tears started flowing. Even as I smiled and waved to the people on the floats, I fought back tears. I was happily taking it all in. Children dressed as angels and wise men were balanced on the floats, followed by boys dressed as reindeer pulling a vintage carriage in which sat a pretty girl wearing a tiara. I even cried when the Senior Citizen van went by and I waved at all the people peering out of the windows. I could see their white hair adorned with red Santa hats. They were smiling and waving and I wondered how many Christmases and parades they had seen in their lifetimes.
If any of you have experienced small town parades, you know that every fire engine, every spare police car, and every company with a truck that is willing to attach a sign and a string of colored lights is recruited for a parade. This parade had all that and more. There were kindergarten children walking hand-in-hand with their parents, elementary teachers holding signs with their school logos, and the mayor and his wife riding in a surrey. There were big and small dogs wearing felt antlers walking along side children in wagons, and even the pastor of St. Jacob’s (Miamisburg’s oldest Lutheran church) was there, riding a unicycle while juggling. He offers juggling lessons as a ministry for the youth of his church. Then there was our recently re-elected state representative dressed very strangely and riding in circles on a recumbent bike. He drew both laughter and applause from the crowd. Santa and his Mrs. were in the very last carriage, which was drawn by two large draft horses. It was a magnificent sight! Macy's parade couldn't hold a candle to our little hometown event.
I was truly enjoying the moment, but also wishing I had been able to experience the time when the shops on Main Street were the only places to shop at Christmas. I imagined the shops dressed in all their holiday finery and the people of the town walking about with their arms full of "brown paper packages tied up with strings". I imagined that some of the people on the senior citizen's bus might have done their Christmas shopping in the town square decades ago, long before the malls came to town.
When the parade was over, many of the people lingered a bit, as if to savor the memory. I wanted to remember this night too, so as I slowly walked back to my car, I continued to take in the sights of the streetlights, wreaths, and red bows. I looked back to the center of town and pictured myself shopping there when the downtown area was at its best. What a wonderful time that must have been. I headed for home with Christmas spirit in my heart and a newfound appreciation for my little town. Just as I arrived at my car, a light snow began to fall.