Your Christmas displays light up a toddler’s eyes

By Jayson Jacoby December 21, 2012 09:57 am

My son Max has the typically limited lexicon of a 21-month-old, but one of the favorite arrows in his modest verbal quiver is “light.”

He doesn’t just say the word. He proclaims it.

And when his audience fails to show a satisfactory level of interest he will repeat himself as often as he deems necessary, and accompanied by increasingly frantic gesticulations.

His zealotry can seem either cute or obnoxious, depending on how often the listener has been subjected to it.

Anyway he’s dedicated.

As a toddler fascinated by all manner of illumination, Max has taken to this Christmas season — it’s just the second one in his brief career — in a big way.

He’ll happily sit in his car seat — a place he often suggests, despite his scant vocabulary, is akin to a torture chamber — for the better part of an hour while we creep along Baker City streets, looking at Christmas lights and decorations.

This creates a rare point of agreement between Max and his older sister, Olivia. She loves her brother, to be sure, but as a 5-year-old kindergartner her attitude toward Max veers from annoyance to outright malevolence, and the transition is as predictable as thunderstorm winds.

It seems to me that Christmas displays in Baker City are both more numerous, and more exuberant, than in recent seasons.

I concede that my hypothesis lacks a shred of scientific validity.

I haven’t conducted a block-by-block analysis, haven’t tallied light bulbs or done a census of snowmen, reindeer and Nativity scenes.

But I had to pull over to the curb quite a few times to let traffic pass while Max and Olivia exclaimed over an especially well-designed extravaganza.

Actually their preferences lean more to quantity than to quality — the brighter and more gaudy (let’s call it “Griswoldian,” an adjective which isn’t in the dictionary but should be) the better, as far as Max, and to a lesser extent Olivia, is concerned.

One trend I’m confident has happened is the increasing prevalence of those inflatable ornaments that adorn yards.

I rather like these, although they look pathetic in their flaccid, daylight state.

Once reinvigorated, though, by the steady breath of a pump, these decorations add a touch of whimsy to the traditional decor of wooden cutout Santas and plastic candy canes.

Although certain pieces seem more sinister than anything.

I’m thinking here in particular of the one in which the Grinch unfolds, in slinky serpent fashion, from a chimney.

Doug Humphress, the retired Baker City Police chief, and his wife, Virginia, who live on Sixth Street just north of Broadway, have assembled a noteworthy collection of these plump accessories.

There is of course an element of competition in any sort of Christmas decorations.

If for instance a Sam Bass moves into your neighborhood and strings up enough lumens to run Heathrow or O’Hare, well, you tend to feel sort of Scrooge-like if all you can muster is a single strand of twinkle lights.

Which for some reason don’t twinkle.

Ultimately, though, I’m sure the overriding goal for most people is to brighten Christmas, both literally and figuratively, for passers-by.

I’m gratified that so many Baker City residents invest both the time and the money to spread some artificial sunshine during this season of the longest night.

My words of thanks, though, count as a poor substitute compared with the innocent smile of a toddler, who can’t say how happy he is when he sees another splash of bright color piercing the dark.

And doesn’t need to.