Winterfest 2015

Here it is: the end of the year, the beginning of reflection time following the roller coaster that began in September and has finally come to a short rest in the quiet remaining days of the year.

It’s a melancholy time. Christmas is over- the hubbub, hoopla, hysteria. Alvin the Elf and his nightly maneuvers into creative spots new spots that have not been previously thought of. The making a list and checking it twice and not saving it to the smartphone memo pad and having to try to remember everything that was written all over again. The Oh Shit presents and the anxiety of knowing that at any moment they may need to be used and may or may not be good enough. The reminder to not let the stress of the season get in the way of enjoying the magic that comes with young children and Christmas….which is easier said than done.

And I may or may not have succeeded in that.

There were many moments of magic. And I did try to breathe them in and savor them for the short time they may last.

One highlight of this season was Winterfest at our favorite state park.

It was local. It looked cute. Our expectations were not high, but we have a 3 and 6 year old who are still fairly easy to please, and it was $5 per person. So we decided to check it out.

We met two other families at the local state park at sunset (which, this time of year, is before 5pm). There was already a line, but it wasn’t too long. While we waited for the other families, Bubba was drawn to a large television perched on the grass next to the line. It was Elmo and Ernie and the friends from Sesame Street in sweet shorts celebrating the season. The magic in this was Bubba’s delight in these characters. This little boy, who is every bit BOY, spends his days dreaming that he is Darth Vader and whipping an invisible light saber around. His favorite show to watch is Star Wars Rebels. He talks about the Dark Side and seems to aspire to be a member of it. And I reflect on his brother and his interests at the same age- Wonderpets, Backyardagains…and while he did like the concept of Spiderman and other superheroes, we really didn’t venture out of the realm of preschool programming when it came to tv.

Well, it’s easy to limit exposure when your preschooler is the oldest child in the home. However, with Rocketman being 3 years older, Bubba has easily acquired the same interests as his older brother…and then some. (Rocketman prefers Jedi rebels and Droids to anything Dark always.)

So, when Bubba was drawn to Elmo and his friends on the big screen at Winterfest, I was delighted. Delighted to see that my “baby” still retains some of his sweet innocence. That underneath the lightsaber swinging, Darth Vader mask wearing exterior, he is still just a little boy who enjoys learning his ABCs and singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” And that little bit of Magic was a nice way to kick off our first experience at Winterfest.

The experience just got better from there. From the lit path of Christmas lights to the inflatable snow globes to the Minions and Superheroes wandering around the park, the parents were impressed and kids enamored.

winterfest2015batman

We eventually made it to the “Lost City,” a trail that had been created for the local haunted house experience in October. Now it had been transformed for the Christmas season, going from a narrow walkway opening into rooms full of blood and gore to one covered in festive lights and leading into rooms full of popular holiday characters like The Grinch, Rudolph and Frosty.

Rocketman was apprehensive at first. The lights, the anticipation of large characters, the memory of the haunted rooms that filled its space previously- it all provided a bit of sensory overload. But, brave boy that he is, he pressed on, mostly concerned about that mean spirited Grinch that he’d been promised to encounter. I reminded him that, in the end, the Grinch’s heart had grown 3 sizes and was now a “good guy.” The encouragement allowed him to press ahead, but he was still doubtful.

We entered the room of the Grinch (who looked more like a bunny rabbit made out of broccoli), who was accompanied by Cindy-Lou Who and Rudolph and while all the other children ran around the room greeting the characters, Rocketman hung back. With a little persuading, he finally inched forward and into the arms of the not-so-scary Grinch. And I was as proud of him as I always am when he is willing to overcome his fear in favor of experience.

Winterfest2015grinch

As we walked through the path to the lost city, Bubba saw a picture of Frosty on the wall and began shouting, “Look, Mommy Look! It Fosty! We get to see Fosty next! He my favorite! I love Fosty!” And there was that unabashed preschool enthusiasm again. We entered the room with Frosty and Bubba stopped in his tracks. The rest of the kids ran to the snowman, stopped for a quick photo, and then ran off to the next thing, but Bubba just stood and stared at his favorite- “Fosty.”

Winterfest2015Frosty

And this is what I love. The magic. Give them some Christmas lights, inflatables and local teenagers dressed as their favorite characters and their eyes light up and their imaginations come to life. And I know it won’t be this way forever. And I worry each year as they grow older that this will be the year that the magic begins to fade. And this is why I need to write. Need to record. Need to reflect on this fresh memory of Bubba staring in awe at super-skinny Frosty. At Rocketman’s proud smile as he embraces his fear and snuggles with the Grinch. At the fact that we are having and enjoying this time as a family and that everyone of us wants to be there, with each other, at that moment. It won’t always be this way. But I’m happy that it is now.

Once we made it through each room, we came to an area of the path that was full of dancing Christmas lights. We had purchased glasses for the boys that somehow made each light appear to have a reindeer surrounding it. While the other families ran ahead to see what was next, my family hung back. We watched the “light show” without the glasses and oohed and ahhed as they danced. We took turns wearing the glasses and laughing as the reindeer prisms frolicked when we shook our heads back and forth. And hubs and I looked at each other and smiled at the fact that this $20/family local show was providing just as much fun for our boys as any hundreds of dollars extravaganza we have brought them to. And we basked in their enjoyment.

I hope that we can always stop and look. That we can always bask in the moment, no matter how simple. No matter how seemingly insignificant. I am melancholy because my babies are growing and I am anxious about the time that will come when they no longer want to share family experiences with us and will scoff at characters and their crude costumes and obvious masks. And the magic will be gone. But then I think about the fact that I am 38 years old and I can still see the magic. And hubs is 43 and stills sees the magic too. And I hope that between nature and nurture my two boys will maintain at least some of their enjoyment and enthusiasm for this season through their tween and teen years. But, in the meantime, I am stopping and looking and enjoying these little things- Rocketman reaching for my hand when he is apprehensive about an overstimulating situation and being calmed after holding it, Bubba’s whole body responding to a picture of his favorite character- back arched, fists splayed to the side, and hums of excitement emitting from his smiling face, and the moments that my whole family stands alone in the busy hubub of the season and enjoys all the sights, sounds and magic it has to offer.

 

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