December 5: Mechanical Displays
It might have started with our family’s annual visit to downtown Houston to visit Santa Claus at Foley’s department store. I could hardy wait to sit on Santa’s lap and share two-or-three items on my wish list. But the real magic occurred on the sidewalks, as we would peer into the plate-glass windows and witness the elaborate exhibits. Some were whimsical scenes of children gathering around the christmas tree; others were more nostalgic of old-fashioned parties where adults would clink their glasses in holiday cheer. No matter the theme, I loved how the windows came to life for these special holidays.
Or perhaps my love-affair with these unique decorations began when I would lie in bed, peer through the slits of the blinds, and watch the mechanical Santa wave hello from the neighbor’s front window. I was mesmerized by his swaying back-and-forth – almost a hypnotic trance that helped me relax and go to sleep.
But this love affair did not stop with the transition to adulthood. After I married and moved to New York City, I could hardly wait until the official lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and the transformation of Fifth Avenue storefronts. I would start at one end of the majestic boulevard and work my way to the other: B. Altman’s, Lord & Taylor, and of course, Saks. The serene images of a bygone era helped calm the chaos of this modern-day life.
When we left for the suburbs to begin our own family, I could hardly wait to purchase these mechanical decorations for myself. I had visions of creating an entire village, just like the department stores, that would come to life each evening along with our outdoor light display and Christmas tree. I wanted to capture the magic of my childhood and share it with my children.
I never managed to create the village, but over the years we have had a Santa carrying a gold sack of toys; a culinary Mrs. Claus, outfitted with an apron and rolling-pin; and this pair… Santa driving the sleigh with Rudolph as his lead reindeer. The piano provides the perfect runway, and my three-year-old granddaughter loves to watch them “fly” … just like her Olly.
May we all reconnect, at some point this season, with the magical part of our childhood Christmas … for it represents the super-natural love of Christ that will bring us lasting joy throughout the year.