We braved the cold, the young and the old, to answer the call of Christmas. Not the clarion call of discounts and sales found on the Friday after Thanksgiving, but the call of a special Christmas cheer that makes a 7 year old boy race down the sidewalk until he hears a separate call from his father imploring for the chance to catch up.
Torrington’s “Light Up Main Street” held great promise for not since Halloween had my son and I taken a walk under the stars with the purpose of grand adventure. We wore our new gloves and knit hats and our winter coats were both blue, so we were an official team in every respect.
“Thanks, pal,” I said as he ran back to get my hand and through his sheer force of will made me move a little faster.
Lights were being carefully placed at Torrington Furniture while across the way, Diane Concannon’s Platinum Salon was abuzz with activity as a well known, red suited, white bearded gent from up north was visiting inside. The Torrington Warrior Cheerleaders of Div12 were outside S & S Sweet Treats fundraising for a well deserved trip to Florida to compete for the national title.
At Coe Park, the High School Chorus delighted their audience and then before long the Interim Mayor Zordan began the countdown for the tree lighting. I put my son on my shoulders so he’d have a great view of the tree. He covered my face with his gloves. And after counting backwards from ten, applause immediately erupted as the lights on the tree lit up the night sky! Then, with seemingly very little fanfare, just a quick announcement, the great Christmas crowd of Torrington began to march toward city hall.
We were less of a parade and more of a movement, as if a giant river of revelers had been let loose from behind the floodgates. Savoring their hot chocolates or pushing strollers or holding hands with the ones they came with, this giant community within Torrington crossed the Naugatuck, crossed the five points and returned to the center of downtown. And the wonder of it all was that the Torrington community in cars who had reached the five points at exactly the wrong time gave us an amazing Christmas gift of patience and understanding.
When we reached the Nutmeg Conservatory, we stopped for we saw dancers in full Nutcracker regalia in the windows posing as living Christmas decorations, while outside, the rat king offered us cards with information about the upcoming performance. It was difficult to tell who had the bigger smiles, the children in the windows or the children waving to them!
At City Hall, a band played favorite Christmas songs until the next lighting ceremony. Our newly elected mayor Elinor Carbone and the Interim Mayor lit the tree here; it was a welcome and quite literal passing of the torch, signifying the hope of a new beginning for our city. At St Francis, a live nativity scene entertained and there was free hot chocolate in the rectory. Further north, the city ended the festivities with the opening of The Christmas House, the large multistory celebration of Christmas lights, trains, dolls and toys.
On our journey we said hello to Robert C Fullerton, the singer-songwriter from Torrington, we stopped in to say hi to Jessica Stepler Washington at The Arts Desire, we saw our friend Rachel of Quailies Kids, and our friend Chris Beyus. And I noticed other groups of Torringtonians calling out to other groups of Torringtonians by name, saying hello and wishing each other well. My son said hello to Santa (from a distance) when we passed Platinum Salon. And when we were ready, we walked home with a happy feeling in our hearts.
The evening wasn’t exactly about spirituality though you could find it there, nor was it about commerce though you could find it there, it was an evening about community, about family and the extended family in and of our city. It was about the smiles and greetings shared between neighbors and friends. It was about the wonder and excitement of a child being witness to and being a part of an evening parade under Christmas lights. It was about seeing toys in the Nutmeg Conservatory windows come alive. It was about magic becoming memories, the songs and spirit of fellowship that can carry us through this holiday season.
My son and I held hands and met each other’s pace, walking beneath the glow of streetlights, the stars, amidst the flicker of blue in the windows, feeling warm and happy as we made our way home.