The ghosts of Christmas past were a little frazzled last night at the Kiwanis Christmas in Downtown Plymouth, the town's longtime annual tree lighting event. I'm a big proponent of both pomp AND circumstance... seeking music to set the mood at every occasion (oh.. you noticed?), and especially at Christmas. Last night, we had the circumstance, but where was the pomp? I WANT MY JINGLE BELLS! I missed hearing more music, but still, there were a lot of terrific things going on downtown. It's worth the trip next year, if you can handle the crowds.
Picture this: You're in a crowd of about a thousand people in Shirley Square. You've got your own kid, your friend's three energetic boys, four adults, and one stroller, and you're ducking and dashing through the other groups of kids and strollers, not quite sure what your destination is, except maybe a spot with less people (which doesn't exist)... all of this while trying to stick together, despite the fact that one of you is constantly running into someone you know, requiring you to stop every five minutes, shout ahead to the others (who are already sixteen heads ahead of you) to wait, then while one chats, the others do their best to corral the excited little sheep. So there's that.
Suddenly, the Plymouth high school marching band appears from the south, turning the corner from Town Square. We heard the drum cadence and knew Santa wouldn't be far behind on Michael Pincelli's antique fire engine, a Plymouth tradition we can count on. We lined up and watched the band go by, and they looked fabulous--but the sound! Where was the music? Just the drums, and not even a glockenspeil playing a familiar Christmas tune. It was a wee bit exciting to see Santa on the back of the fire engine waving at the folks on the other side of the street. Nice red suit, but I really could've used a little Jingle Bells.
The band and truck stopped at the tree. I couldn't see them above the crowds, but about three seconds later, at 5:58, the lights went on. No drum roll. No lead up. No band playing a Christmas tune. No chorus singing Silent Night, Hark the Herald, or Deck the Halls. No singalong carols, where the whole town joined in, as they'd done in past years. That was always a tear-jerker for me, I admit, but I also cry every time I see the Plymouth high school marching band go by--touched by the kids looking so intense, trying so hard to do it right (Yes, I cry at all parades. All of them.) The lights on, everyone cheered, and two minutes later, that part was over. Santa made his way to Memorial Hall, and everyone stood around wondering what to do next. And still... no Jingle Bells.
Thank you, DPW. The trees are done so beautifully in downtown Plymouth. The 25-foot tree covered in hundreds of tiny red Christmas bows is a testament to someone's patience, and the piece de resistance, of course, is the perfectly spiralesque, meticulously decorated white lighting on the deciduous trees along Shirley Square. Lovely!
What was also nice was the sleigh rides, behind the Hobby Knoll Clydesdales from Duxbury. Those are central to the celebration, though if you waited til 6:30 to buy your tickets (which we did), you'd find that the rides were already sold out til 8:00. Good to know for next year. Particularly because this was the site of our three-year-old's Cataclysmic Meltdown #1.
Ah, the public meltdown. An event to warm the cockles of even the most frosty mother's heart.
After this heart-warming event, motion was the only solution. We quickly made our way to Memorial Hall, hoping to beat the crowds a little and get a ging at Santa, who was upstairs for photos. Ha, ha! Beat the crowds. As if there were such a thing! Silly Mommy!
By the time we'd dodged the crowds, climbed the stairs, and entered the Santa room at Memorial Hall, the line for Santa was out the door. Fortunately our little one didn't mind; Santa's still a little scary, so we got our glance and left. We really missed the crafts that had been there in the Santa room in previous years; always a chance to do a little early shopping for handmade gifts. (Maybe the crafters were somewhere else in the building, but there was no signage to tell us so.) Anyway, it was just as well. We went back downstairs just in time for Cataclysmic Meltdown #2. "MOMMY BUT I DON'T WANT TO GET IN THE STROLLER! NO, I DON'T WANT TO WALK EITHER! I DON'T WANT TO WEAR MY COAT! NO, I DON'T WANT YOU TO PUT MY COAT IN THE BACK OF THE STROLLER!"
This is when the wise parent says, "Tired! I'll take her home!" But no... there was more to see. Silly Mommy.
Back downtown to North Street, for the final destination of the event, and site of Cataclysmic Meltdown #3. A major highlight of the entire evening, really, was the activity at the Plymouth Center for the Arts. It was teeming with children and parents, who'd come to decorate gingerbread cookies and snowflakes, while soprano Jodi Mulcahy and a cellist performed in one the center's galleries. I happen to know that the volunteers had worked tirelessly all week to bake the cookies, decorate the center, and staff the event, and even at 7:00, after two hours of chaos with kids in and out of the center's small rooms, they were still cheery and having a blast. That was real community, and even though our little one chose that venue for her third and final cataclysmic meltdown of the evening, the smiles of art center volunteers extraordinaire Carol Raymond, Deb Calvert, Nancy Sealey, and Ruanne Amado that night will remain shining spots in my memory of Christmas 2009. But no smile can outweigh a public meltdown... That's when we took our cookies and ran home.
Many congrats to the Kiwanis folks who put this together. Yes, I missed the music this year, but I'll do it again next year. I'm a die-hard, though I admit it is a challenging event to be the parent of a small child in. Due in large part to the mild weather, the crowds were overwhelming. Maybe the music was there, but I couldn't hear it over the crowds. In past years, when the weather was bad and the crowds were tiny, it seemed that there was music everywhere. There were carolers at Shirley Square... Paul, Pat the Fabulous, and friends from Middle Street School of music dressed in Victorian garb and singing carols in multipart harmony. And, there was the bagpiper, who in past years had stationed herself in front of the old Woolworth's and played Christmas tunes that echoed over the whole downtown. No bagpiper this year. I missed them. What also was missed was last year's Brewster Gardens light show, because in addition to being beautiful, it did one important service: it spread the crowds out, giving people something worthwhile to see outside of the immediate downtown. And finally, I missed the smiling Kiwanis people handing out programs to tell you what was going on, and where. Either they weren't there, or they were lost in the crowd.
Note for next year: Get there when it starts at 5:00, and stay late (if no one is having a meltdown) to take advantage of the many events available. We were sorry to miss face painting at Church of the Pilgrimage, holiday music at the 1749 Court House, and later in the celebration, school band concerts at Memorial Hall--I know I would have gotten my Jingle Bells there, but Memorial Hall, being the site of Cataclysmic Meltdown #2, meant we had to put Mini Me in the stroller and run like hell.
Next year, please can we have a little Jingle Bells? Thank you.