By Linda Dillman
Years ago, long before roof-topping inflatables that wobble in the wind and look like road kill when electricity is cut to their power sources, there was the single strand of Christmas lights.
A single strand to brighten the darkness around Christmas time. A single strand to show your neighbors you had the holiday spirit. A single strand that served as beacon to let you know you were close to home.
Sometimes, if your family was fancy, a single strand of lights became multiple strands of lights that outlined a house in a rainbow of blue, yellow, red, green and sometimes purple.
Our house was a little different. My daddy splurged one year and bought a strand of red bells hooked to red lights that twinkled on and off above our front door and window.
I thought it was magical…that single strand of bells. It was the only Christmas decoration on the front of our little 1960s-era ranch house for many years.
Just before Christmas, I would sit in wide-eyed amazement when my daddy, mother and I would hop in the car and drive around our housing development looking at the lights of other like-minded families.
Some streets were illuminated brightly and it was usually the same houses year after year. Many had tall plastic—what would later be called kitschy—Santas and snowmen plugged into a spider web of electrical cords.
Other than the soft glow of a Christmas tree in the window, on other streets, a forlorn streetlight was the only break in the darkness.
Today, lights are everywhere and in forms unimaginable to my six-year-old self. Illumination has ventured out from the façade of homes to the yard and even onto vehicles of every imaginable size and shape.
Many of those vehicles paraded along the streets of Canal Winchester on Dec. 5 in celebration of the holidays and the life of Brock Johnson, who passed away in 2015.
The inaugural Holiday Lights Parade, today known as the Brock Strong Light Up the Night Holiday Parade, was held in 2014 and Brock was the first grand marshal. His legacy continues—as does his grand marshal designation—every year.
At twilight, vehicles lined up in the Canal Winchester High School parking lot…some as simple as a decorated golf cart, a brightly lit boat or as elaborate as a float outfitted with inflatables, music and an electronic message board.
Size did not matter. Decorations did not matter. A strand of lights did not matter. What mattered was the camaraderie, the laughter, the feeling of community and the love of sharing holiday happiness with the people of Canal Winchester.
It was the same feeling I had as a child when the people of my small housing development community shared their simple strands of lights with each other.
Merry Christmas everyone and keep your own light shining.