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Mack Williams: A “restringing”

By Mack Williams

I saw some new images on my recent Danville park walk. A lot of cardio happens in the Salisbury Post’s Lifestyle section — a column by someone who regularly runs, and a column by someone who regularly walks.

I’ve seen the park’s Christmas decorations in past years, never witnessing their earliest stage of setup. I proceeded past small sections of park space having numbered signs beginning with “Site One.” Another local trail has numbers aiding the walker/runner in measuring distance traveled; but these were not that, being more like a blueprint applied to the ground. These sites had yet to be decorated and themed this early in the game.

Some numbered signs also had additional staked placards including the familiar names of former sponsors: churches, businesses, and organizations such as the American Legion. A new one was that of a local dance company. A few of the numbered sites had no names, making me hope these “empty numbers” didn’t represent past business gone under during the pandemic, the vacant site now available for some new sponsor.

The city charges a modest fee per car for holiday sightseers to drive through and enjoy the decorated, themed scenes. It’s perfect, especially for “pandemic entertainment,” like some of the revived drive-in theaters.

The municipal crew had already set up random Christmas decorations not associated with any sponsored site.

That day, I walked near sunset; and the lights weren’t yet lit, not being so until after Thanksgiving.

In the annual TV presentation of Rankin/Bass’ “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Burl Ives’ snowman character sings “Silver and Gold,” but when the late evening sun’s light passed through the unswitched, painted bulbs directly opposite me, many of them resembled “seasonal” rubies and emeralds.

In the advancing evening darkness, only the thin, bulb-framed forms of those unlit random decorations could be discerned, reminding me of dim shadows of Christmas past from the time before the pandemic’s advent. The scenes: a Christmas tree surrounded by singing children, elves working in Santa’s toy shop, and Santa relaxing by fishing prior to his annual journey, all seeming so faint as to be almost subliminal.

This made me think of a YouTube video which contrasts old ghostly black-and-white photos of U.S. troops proceeding down the streets of a liberated French village in World War II with current color pictures of those same streets. It’s surprising how many of the buildings are still there.

The city workers had to string some of the lights differently this year due to the loss of some of the trees to which those lights had been anchored last year.

I reflected upon the many people lost this year, through pandemic and otherwise, and of the human spirit adapting and “restringing” so life can be switched on again.

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