Contentment defined

Contentment defined

I drive home every night from work after 8 p.m. through residential areas, and many houses are lit up with lights – blinking, white, colored, shaped into deer – you name it, it’s out there. And every night as I drive home, I wish I could just force myself out of the house after dark and drive around to look at the lights.
When we lived in Austin, often during the month of December, my dad would take me or me and one, two, or all of my siblings on a drive through town to look at the lights that people had put up. My mom wouldn’t necessarily come with; sometimes she would be there, other times it would be just my dad and a couple of his kids.
One particular time I remember going to Rochester to look at lights. For some reason, Rochester seemed a lot farther away than it actually was – it was only 30 miles from Austin, on a freeway no less, but it always seemed like two hours to get there.
My aunts Colettie and Kathleen were with, and Liz might have been with also. We first drove downtown, where all the deciduous trees had white twinkle lights strewn through their branches, something I had never seen before. Lights were made for pines, right? Apparently someone was thinking outside the box…or triangular branches, as it were. Even today when I see lights on smallish maples and other leafy trees, I think of that first time I saw them downtown in Rochester.
Then we drove through the “rich” neighborhoods, pausing at each house as the lights reflected in our eyes. Cul-de-sac after cul-de-sac, we drove in circles looking at all the lights the owners had put out for others’ enjoyment. 20-foot pines with colored lights up to the top, each window and eve lined in small lights, green and red lights winding up pillars that held up porch roofs. I couldn’t get enough.
But the best was yet to come. After we had exhausted ourselves looking at lights, and Lizzie was snoozing in the back seat, my dad pulled over in one of Rochester’s parks and pulled out a thermos filled with hot cocoa. I held my styrofoam cup in my hands and watched the Christmas lights in the distance across the lake, distorted by the steam from my cocoa. It really was the perfect evening trip. Contentment defined.

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