Saturday, December 20, 2014

The End of an Era

Sean and his dad. Traditions live. December 22, 2012

Traditions. I've always believed in them, to the point of being told I can be a "get off my lawn" type of guy. Seems strong, but OK.

I've tried to go The Big E every year, but came up short this year. Oktoberfest at Hunter Mountain? I got there in, er, October. I love Opening Day in baseball and calling a football game every Thanksgiving.

Traditions change, of course (baseball has done a phenomenal job screwing up Opening Day).

Traditions also end. One of those will die tonight.

Every year for over a decade or so, my family and I have gathered to visit the Christmas display of Rick and Joan Setti in Norwalk, CT. The group has changed over the years (people come and go) but a core group has gone for a long time now.

Yes, there's been a missed date here and there. For instance, I was laid up with kidney stones in 2010, so Sean went with the rest of the family. My mom missed last year due to her open heart surgery, but a group went on Christmas Eve, as a snap decision, with the snow falling furiously.

The Setti's have decided that it's time to stop the display. According to a report in the Norwalk Daily Voice, they're not moving to Florida, as was rumored. They're just stopping because they think it's time. It's a lot of work, and you know that if you've ever been there. The number of miniature houses, wooden figures, and lights are staggering.

The couple will have their Christmas village featured on an ABC Family channel show called "The Great Christmas Light Fight" on Monday, Dec. 22. Their Facebook page has more, including the possibility of an eventual tag sale.

Selfishly, I'm sad. This night - this display - could often melt the heart of a six-foot tall Grinch. What's worse is that Sean is sad.

This is all he's known. We first brought him when he was tiny. When he had parents that brought him. Later, his dad made sure to get him there. The general routine, which grew out of my sister going with her kids, became our tradition.

Later tonight, we will meet at Post Corner Pizza in Darien. This part was my idea, since we needed a spot to grab dinner. There will be pizza, salad, laughter, figuring out how to pay the bill, and we will all leave stuffed. From there, we'll make the drive to Norwalk to visit the display. Oh sure, some years the visit might have been shorter than others due to cold weather, snow, etc. Yet we went - without fail.

The night will finish just as a night of viewing Christmas lights should: at Stew Leonard's in Norwalk for ice cream (after walking around the store, of course). I have to have to cup of coffee to sip as we stroll and look for any taste samples (cookies, donuts, etc).

I noticed, as we made the plans for tonight, most of Laura's kids are going (all grown and out of high school now). They might not have pushed to go in another year, but we all know tonight will be special. I know Michael would love to bring his girlfriend and baby to see it, but he'll be thinking of us in Arizona. Mom is going, and that is a blessing. My niece Stephanie is joining us also, as always.

And Sean.

I suggested ways we could carry the torch next year to him, but he was succinct: "It just won't be the same."

He's quite right there. It won't. We can find other light displays (of course, the Guinness record-breaking drive-around ERDAJT in LaGrangeville, NY is phenomenal) but something will be missing.

Yet it's of course more than that, and any parent should agree. This is the end. Sean is 12, and different days are approaching. That wonder, that innocence, that willingness to hang with his "old man" and the family will likely be gone. There is a sadness that will hang over tonight.

I hope to run into other friends tonight, so that they can see this before it goes away. I hope we find other things to do but we all know that there will always be that nostalgia when we think about Rick and Joan's house in Norwalk.

Things don't come easy for families. Some members have no interest in going. Yet it was always nice to have something - this thing - that most of us agreed on.

Thanks to the Setti's for this wonderful tradition. We won't try to change your mind, but you'll forgive us if there is a long look, and maybe a tear, as we say good bye.

No comments: