I coaxed my 12-year-old daughter, Crystal, away from her computer for a shopping trip this weekend, feeling nostalgic for the cheesy, hand-painted Christmas tree ornaments that have become the ghost of Christmas past dangling on our tree.
Passing by the Swiss Village, we noticed a blaze of lights and a bounty of cars.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“I have no idea, but look at all the cars!” said Crystal.
“Wow! This is huge,” I said, as we pulled in and searched for a parking space. “Look at all the people! What a great story!” With a guilty start, I realized I had neither pen, nor paper, nor camera — like a new mother without a diaper-changing bag. Not pretty. Hopefully, this would prove a neater oversight.
In its 34th year, the annual Swiss Village Christmas Lighting draws Rim Country residents from all corners. I saw school teachers and telecommuters, students and babies and, of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus.
We finally found a spot in front of Chrisy’s Cottage. Inside, people ogled the adorable tops and jewelry and I struggled to resist a fitted blue coat with white polka dots. The affable storeowners served warm apple cider and cookies.
“Oooo, snacks!” said Crystal.
Great — welcome to the holiday dinner of sugary snacks. Ah well — go with the flow. We helped ourselves to hot cider and cookies, then meandered.
Every storeowner had lights blazing and open doors, with extra staff to take orders — from Back to Basics to the Payson Candle Factory.
Live music blared from a stage in the center of the Village. Santa and Mrs. Claus had a line a block long. La Sierra Mexican restaurant served a delicious traditional fruit punch.
We spent 90 minutes scoping out presents, working on new Christmas memories — all without a notebook.
The next night, we hit it again — this time for Pine’s annual holiday lights celebration. Oddly enough, this time Crystal barely resisted my efforts to drag her out of her room.
Moreover, this time I brought my camera — with flash, extra batteries and lenses. I also made sure I had my notebook and a pen, having learned my lesson.
Pine’s cozy celebration is nestled in the community center, where the Pine-Strawberry Business Organization rallies the community to bake piles of goodies from cookies to gingerbread and a delicious strawberry-whipped-cream confection.
“Another dinner of sweets!” said Crystal with a gleam in her eye.
I groaned inwardly, but smiled sweetly.
The business group had transformed the community hall into a crafts bazaar, snack table, kids craft corner and up on stage Santa and Mrs. Claus made their second appearance in consecutive days, although the line was shorter. Elf Cori Barnett had time to pose with her grandma, Gail Jones, for a photo with the famous pair from the North Pole.
In the Kid’s Craft corner, Shara Weiss had an ornament-making table set up for the kids. I begged Crystal to make me an ornament.
“Mom!” she said, with an eye roll.
“Please,” I pleaded, figuring it would be my last chance for a homemade ornament, as she’ll turn 13 in a few weeks. Fortunately, Weiss has a background in childhood development and an eye for crafts. She gave Crystal a clear glass ornament and then talked to her about how to put paint inside to make swirly designs.
I wandered away to give Crystal the space to create.
Pulling out a camera, I caught Joe Bruce and his dog Pablo waiting in line for Santa. Felicia French’s dog Baily almost stuck his muzzle in the treats covering the table, but French taught him better manners than to just take a treat. Five-year-old Sammy Weiss colored at the art table in her favorite colors, pink and purple.
“See, I’m dressed all in pink,” she said standing on her chair to show off her pink dress, stripped pink tights, pink slippers and backpack.
Just then, Crystal appeared with her beautiful blue, purple and white sparkly streaked glass ornament.
“Oh! That’s beautiful,” I said.
She beamed. “Thanks, Mom,” she said. Then she added, “I really wanted to make a project, but I was a little embarrassed.”
It’s rough being 13.
But then, it’s also no cake walk letting your 13-year-old go.
Maybe falling into the gooey sentimental mom now and then works — or maybe it’s the holidays.