I exhaled into the cold air as I shuffled down the street in my big, clumsy snow boots. My cheeks and nose were painted pink by the biting wind. I was eight years old, and this street was my world — a winter wonderland of animatronic decorations and brightly colored lights.
I made my way to the end of the street where a large tree stood, covered in lights. It touched the tip of the sky and stood steady and tall above the cul-de-sac.
The tree always seemed to protect Candy Cane Lane, the street I’ve lived on since I was born. It was a 50-year tradition in Prairie Village of holiday decorations and lights.
I passed the candy man and found Ellery and Grace sitting beneath the tree. They had been my friends since I could first remember and lived on the street along with me. Ellery was three years younger, and Grace only one. Age didn’t seem to matter much. As long as they would still play make-believe or house with me, it was OK.
They sat sat in a bank of snow in a seat they carved themselves. They resembled colored marshmallow puffs in their mismatched snow gear. The hundredth car that night drove by, which we waved to as they passed.
I felt like a celebrity in my own world – only during the holidays.
We ran daily between our two houses playing make believe games. My house was Grace’s, and her house was mine. Living on the street had made all my neighbors get closer, not just her family and mine. Everyone had to coordinate in order to pull all of Candy Cane Lane together. Brunches, setting up decorations, handing out candy canes, gathering together in the summer season to have a block party. It created a place that I was proud to call my home. I could say that I lived on Candy Cane Lane, and people would know almost instinctively where it was.
Every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, it is a tradition to pass out candy canes to the cars passing by that were either reminiscing or taking their own children around. Passing out candy canes became another game- a competition to get the most cars.
We raced one another out to the car, offering the candy canes we held to them before returning back to the curb. We didn’t seem to quite make it back to the curb always. As the night went on, we would end up further and further out into the street until our parents would look up from their discussions and wine to call us back. And the cycle would begin again.
It seemed like a hundred cars went by, joined by party buses and limos. We had no choice but to toss a handful of candy canes into the window in hopes that it would be enough for everyone in the vehicle.
The people that drove by in their cars grew up on Candy Cane Lane too. Maybe not in the same way, but grew up there as their family drove them down the street every year, their hands pressed against the chilled glass of the window to see outside at the lights. I see people pass the same way everyday and I always think of how maybe one day they’ll be driving their kids by the Grinch scene or the animatronic candy man that lives in a box.
The candy canes ran out and the weather was oddly warm that year. Between two houses on Candy Cane Lane is a large side yard. The street was illuminated by the lights from the decorations, but the side yard had a steady line where the lights didn’t shine. At this point on the street, there was nearly 20 kids that lived there.
We’re driving home from choir practice on a late Monday night. The lights are bright and it’s easy to know when to turn. My mom is grinning and belting out another verse of “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. Despite the fact that Christmas music gets a bit old when you live on a street known for its holiday cheer, it puts her in a good mood, and for that I’m not complaining. After insisting on driving around the street again, my mom comments for the hundredth time about how lovely the street is.
It’s the place where I grew up making penguin nests out of snow banks, hiding behind painted plywood cut outs of holiday decorations and chasing other kids around in a makeshift game of tag. It’s the place that I grew up on, in a house covered in the Grinch and the Whos of Whoville during christmas time.
And, yeah, I think that’s pretty neat.