On Tuesday night, Robin Hood and I met up with a few friends at Albuquerque’s River of Lights. I’ve gone in past years, and what a difference between going on a weeknight and going on a weekend. So much easier to park! So much easier to get tickets! So much easier to take a step without having to worry about trampling small herds of children!
You’re probably familiar with the “River of Lights” concept – a city takes a large public area, does it up with holiday lights, and visitors either drive a route around the lights or walk among them.
In Albuquerque’s case, it’s the Botanical Gardens, and we get to walk around. The lights are spread out all over the park, with varying themes: flowers, marine life, dinosaurs, tractors, you name it. And it’s not just lights. There are carolers, hot cocoa stands, a brass band, and a maze. There are greenhouses and an impressive train display that, if you let it, could probably hypnotize you.
If anyone is feeling a little Grinchy, I challenge them to go to the River of Lights and not have their hearts grow two sizes.
That’s one of the reasons I love the event – or really any kind of holiday light display; the time I spend lingering in front of particularly colorful houses when I’m out running is borderline inappropriate. That warm, fuzzy feeling is irresistible.
The biggest reason I like the River of Lights, though, is that I can walk through the gates and instantly revert to childhood. And it’s perfectly okay. I wanted to explore all of the park’s paths simultaneously, and repeatedly. I tugged Robin Hood’s arm whenever I saw an especially dazzling display (apologies for the bruises, sweetheart). I stood transfixed by a towering light show that was coordinated to flash in time with music from The Nutcracker. The electric trains and the villages constructed along the miniature train tracks evoked squeaks of excitement (ok, there were several squeaks throughout the evening. I’m not ashamed). And, having discovered long ago that there’s really no mature, ladylike way to drink cocoa topped by a veritable Matterhorn of whipped cream, I slurped away contentedly.
I forgot all about holiday stress.
Here’s the thing. Somehow, when I’m standing in front of a live performance of “Carol of the Bells” or gazing out at a sea of neon, I have a hard time worrying. About anything. For a moment, life ceases to be a blur of errands, social functions, lost gloves and shopping lists, and narrows down to what I can see in the twinkling glow of the lights: people. Namely, my people.
I don’t know about you, but this time of year, I always need reminders about priorities. The holiday season isn’t about sending cards out on time, or at all. It’s not about quantities of treats baked or not baked, consumed or not consumed. It’s not even about the lights. Ok, it’s a little about the lights.
Mainly, it’s about love. It’s about spending time with your people. Simple as that. If, like me, you need a reminder, I recommend grabbing one of those people and finding a good light display. A cup of cocoa topped by a Matterhorn of whipped cream doesn’t hurt either.