The year I graduated from high school, my parents bought a historic home in a picturesque neighborhood. I still think of it as their new house, even though they have lived there over 22 years now. (Maybe I am in denial how many years have passed.) Aside from one summer, I have never lived full-time there so that probably has something to do with it.
Most of the houses were built in the early 1900’s (that’s old in Texas) and when my parents moved in they were part of a new wave of residents, who were often buying from folks who had lived in the neighborhood 40+ years. My parents house was referred to as “the Prince house” at that time because they were the longest (and I think most illustrious) residents. Most of the houses were that way and you got the sense that this neighborhood was a thing in and of itself — that the occupants were just the current caretakers.
The other difference was that there were neighborhood parties and events. One of the longest-standing events was the annual Christmas luminarias — where most of the neighbors worked together to line the streets with small paper lanterns (a candle set in some sand inside a paper bag.) It is a tradition that still happens every year. There are bag-folding parties leading up to the actual event, where everyone gets together and drinks wine and catches up while the work gets done. And then, one weekend before Christmas, three or so trucks are loaded with sand, bags, and candles, and soon luminarias line the streets.
Other than a few years here and there, I have helped put luminarias out. I know many of the neighbors and there is really something special in that day — it’s a sense of community I haven’t experienced anywhere else. My husband’s introduction to the neighborhood was through the luminarias and my son got into the act once he was old enough to ride in a truck and scoop sand. Here is a picture of all of my guys several years ago and a similar picture this year:
This year we had a busy schedule and I was thinking of skipping it but the boy threw a fit. I’m glad he did because — especially with the health problems my parents have experienced recently — family shouldn’t have fallen to the bottom of my To Do list.
As dusk fell, we lit the candles…
Every year, most of the neighbors drop by my parents house for a potluck dinner. Among the people who showed this time were two couples who were around my age and had moved into the neighborhood fairly recently — part of the next wave — and I had a great time chatting with them. It was a wonderful weekend but it also made me a little sad. I know it won’t last another 22 years — at least not for me. At some point, my parents will need less to maintain and the house will be sold. It could be two years or ten years from now but that day is certainly coming. My sister and I live in the big city (the suburbs of the big city, anyway) and neither of us has a desire to move back to our hometown.
But, damn, I will miss the house and the neighborhood and the luminarias… and, of course, the thing that really underpins all of it. I will miss this time with my family.
Feliz Navidad, y’all.