Inventing new traditions

holidaylightfestival
On our journey we were driving 65 mph on the Interstate when a semi truck came up in the left land and blew by us at 75mph or so. As it passed, I noticed that it was a load of chickens on a flatbed trailer. The chicken coops were stacked high and I thought to myself, “that’s a lot of chickens!” As the truck returned to the right hand lane ahead of me, I had to turn on my windshield wipers and washer because of the spray of mud, ice and snow that washed over my pickup. Among the other items was a bunch of feathers. Here’s how my thoughts progressed over the next few seconds:

1) Wow! That’s a lot of chickens!
2) What a cold ride for the birds!
3) Feathers!
4) Those feathers aren’t white! Where would a load of exotic chickens be going?
5) Of course, silly, those aren’t chickens. It’s November. Those are turkeys!

I keep myself entertained with the thoughts that come to me as I drive along. When we planned this move, we never imagined that we’d let it get so late and we would still be making trips. We intended to complete our move in September, but things don’t always work out the way you plan and we are new to the process of being retired. The job of downsizing and leaving our home of 25 years was a bit bigger than we anticipated. Even though our home sold quickly and easily, there were delays due to the high volume of home sales this year. The appraisal took longer than anticipated. After the appraisal was completed, it took the finance company, escrow agents and title company time to process the paperwork. We left Rapid City as soon as we were able.

There are some advantages to making the trip at this time, however. In general, we have found that there are fewer people traveling. There are fewer places at the service stations when we stop, fewer people at highway rest stops and we have been able to select places to stay where we don’t have to deal with crowds.

Our timing was just right for our stop last night. We have been driving during daylight hours and those hours change a bit as we travel west. Yesterday’s travel included crossing a time line, so darkness was descending at an earlier hour by the clock when we pulled into Leavenworth, Washington. We had decided in the morning that this community, nestled on the east slope of the Cascades, would be a good stopping place after having negotiated two mountain passes, the winding roads of Idaho and the traffic of Spokane. We were ready to stop. As we pulled into town, we could see three large vertical lifts working in the park at the center of the town. They were stringing lights on some very tall trees.

Leavenworth Washington is a Bavarian-styled village in the Cascade Mountains, in central Washington State. Years ago as the timber industry was in decline in the area, planners decided to give the town a makeover and turn it into a tourist attraction. Alpine-style buildings with restaurants serving German beer and food line Front Street. The Nutcracker Museum displays thousands of nutcrackers, some dating back centuries. Leavenworth is a gateway to nearby ski areas and wineries.

The covid crisis, however, has put a dent in the tourist trade. Washington has a state plan for the pandemic that specifies restrictions for each county depending on the infection rate in that county. Leavenworth, like most of Washington is in phase two, which means that large gatherings are not occurring. Restaurants are operating at less than 50% capacity with no tables seating more than six. Leavenworth is set up to deal with this a bit better than some communities because they have a large outdoor pedestrian mall and many restaurants are set up for outside seating even in the winter with canopies, heaters and, in some cases, fireplaces at each table. Still, they have had to cancel many of their events, including the annual Christmas festival of lights. In a normal year, the community gets all decorated with Christmas lights and there is a big festival with promotions, shopping, live music and more. The festival runs from Thanksgiving through Valentines Day. There are special events every weekend to encourage skiers and other tourists to linger in the community. This year, however, the Christmas Lighting Festival has been cancelled, and replaced with a more laid-back mood in the community. The lights have just been put up and they turned them on for the first time last night in preparation for this weekend, but they are not doing the promotions and are discouraging the crowds that normally fill the streets. Last night there were just a few people walking in the streets and we didn’t feel crowded at all. There were, however, plenty of lights. Some of the buildings had so many lights that it was hard to think of how they could put up any more. The little park had lights on every tree, even the giant ones. Even the community hospital had lights around the eaves of the building.

We all are going to experience modified holidays this year due to the pandemic. Churches are limiting in person gatherings and, for the most part are running at about 25% of normal capacity or less. Some families have had to change their plans. Our son and his family have, since they have had children, gone to San Diego to celebrate Thanksgiving with his wife’s grandmother, but are not going this year to reduce the possibility of infection and to honor grandma’s need to remain isolated.

For us, it is an opportunity to invent some new holiday traditions. Our son and his family will come to our house for Thanksgiving this year. No airline travel needed for the first time since he went away to college.

I wonder if the turkey we ordered form the local grocery store was one of the ones traveling by semi down the highway.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!