Merry Christmas, y’all. It’s the first time I’ve said it this season. It’s the first time I’ve felt it, this season. But I think the Christmas spirit is seeping in, around the edges.
Julia and I took a road trip today. We wanted to hit as many small North Carolina towns as possible, stroll around historic downtowns, and look at Christmas decorations, and meander down to Norfolk to drop in on some friends. We started in Lizard Lick.
I’m not 100% sure Lizard Lick is still a town, in and of itself, or whether you’d call it more of a crossroads. There’s a Cashpoints with a giant lizard on top, and a Town Hall inside a used car lot where they’ll let you look at clippings of the old Lizard Lick Festival, and they’ll ask how your Saturday’s going and invite you to come back and visit.
We headed east through Williamston, where we met all kinds of nice people in stores. I bought myself a little happiness in an antique store. For a mere $4, I am the proud owner of this:
I also found a $4 lime green vintage clutch with a gold shell clasp. Score. At the next shop, we were ensnared in a conversation with a proprietor ranting about the merits of conservative talk radio and the evils of socialism. When he worked himself up to, “Do you know what your problem is, girls?” Julia cheerfully dragged me out of the store before I could say, “Republicans!” just to see if I could make him blow a gasket. (Side note: capitalism would be working better for you, dear sir, if you weren’t driving customers out of your store with crazy talk.) Every other stop in Williamston was a success.
The old houses in Williamston were just beautiful. We thought Windsor, next small town on the list, was even prettier. It was in Windsor that I saw my favorite Christmas festiveness of the day:
“Leon,” spelled out in Christmas letters. We drove past and I said, “That is beyond fun- just spelling out your name on the lawn.” Julia, quicker than I am, said, “Noel! It’s Noel!” and then I fell apart laughing, because I never would have noticed. And then the rest of the drive was about figuring out whether it really is Leon who lives there and made his own personalized Christmas lawn cheer out of “noel”, or whether it’s the neighbor kids who sneak over and rearrange his letters every night. Maybe one day it’s “LONE,” and then the next it’s “NOLE,” and then next it’s “EL NO.” Next time I drive through I’m just going to take him a beer and ring the doorbell and ask. I would totally drink a beer with Leon.
We headed down the road to Edenton, the prettiest stop yet. Edenton was getting ready for its annual Candlelight Tour. There were festivities everywhere, despite the chilly waterfront wind.
Behind this wreath was a big dose of Merry Christmas:
because when you walk in, the ladies of Edenton hand you a giant cup of liquid cheer. I love the ladies of Edenton.
First egg nog of the season, and oh my gracious merciful heavens, it was good. Know why? It had three kinds of liquor in it. Triple Threat. Yuletide Trifecta. By the time I finished it, my toes were tingling with Christmas cheer, and my cheeks were rosy, and I felt like celebrating something. Starting with more heavily spiked egg nog.
We opted for shopping and strolling instead. After lunch, we narrowly missed being shot by a cannon, due to a Civil War reenactment on a nearby lawn. Seriously, the cannon blast shook the car, and we saw the cannonball land in the middle of a flock of ducks on the water. The ducks didn’t seem as phased as we were.
We drove on up the coast to our real destination: our Norfolk people. Raleigh hasn’t been the same since they moved away, but we all still manage a fair amount of face time, considering. We had girl talk while the babies napped, and then fished the giggling twins out of their cribs and admired their snuggly reindeer pajamas, and built castles out of blocks so they could knock them down, and watched them practice standing and eating peanut butter crackers. We rearranged the nativity set with the preschooler and talked about wise men and angels, and built some more block towers, and gave everyone hugs and headed for Raleigh.
When I left town this morning, I was ready for the holidays to be over. But somewhere out in the farmland, and old white porches draped with garlands, and wreaths and sailboat lights and rum drinks and Elvis singalongs, and small-town welcomes, and friends and babies in footie pajamas, I started to feel better. It’s taken longer than usual, but I think Christmastime might have just arrived.