The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
I lived though it.
And remember it plenty.
The “Terrible Winter of 2020.”
A time I recall from my youth,
When we strayed from science and ignored the truth,
And a pandemic swept through Tucson.
And this was after we’d been through the longest, hottest, fire-breathing summer.
Endless drought without reason!
Followed that winter by the killing season.
The pandemic was back, stalking the living.
The Christmas gift that just kept on giving.
Whether another spike was surging, or a surge was climbing,
For my beloved Winterhaven Festival of Lights
— It was terrible timing.
Way back in ’49, homebuilder C.B. Richards had a dream.
An inspired madcap vision,
A Christmas-themed subdivision!
Holiday homes decorated with flair!
Bedford Falls surrounded by prickly pear.
A Leave-it-to-Beaver-ville with a jingle bell twist.
That magically appeared every December
— as if out of the mist!
A “White Christmas” brigadoon made of candy canes and holly,
Conjured by Winterhaven’s elves, so clever, so jolly.
The whole town would come out to see what wonders there were to see.
The Grinch who stole Kris Kringle’s ladder!
Santa meets Linus the Shepherd Boy meets the Martians!
— Part Three!
There’s no better place to waddle off your holiday feast.
Tucson Boulevard’s to the west. Country Club’s to the east.
Three-thousand-nine-hundred-and-ninety-three-miles south of the North Pole.
You can’t miss it. It’s right there.
On Ft. Lowell.
If all us young’uns had been good and we was behavin’,
My folks would reward us with a trip to Winterhaven.
Over the arroyo and past ironwoods —
To the coolest place we’d go.
To sing “Jingle bells, Batman smells,”
Eat kettle corn
And roll around in fake snow.
That winter the grim news came fast,
Our safety came first and Christmas came last.
With the spike spiking to such terrible heights,
Folks in Winterhaven were within their rights,
To cancel their beloved Festival of Lights.
The local news headline read, “Old Pueblo Pleasantville pulls plug!”
It was not a safe time to cuddle or huddle or let alone hug.
It was a time when momma spoke of strange things.
Did you know whenever a person back then wore a mask
An angel got her wings?
That was the year we spent Christmas apart.
And Winterhaven went dark.
No choirs singing. No sleigh bells ringing.
No Rudolph the red-nosed pickup truck.
No hayrides. No Grinch. No Linus!
No “parking space luck!”
The folks of Winterhaven gave up their light festival,
The thing they loved more than anything else in the world,
To keep the townsfolk safe, to flatten the curve.
It was a very Christmas thing to do.
They put the health of us first.
And still the hospitals burst.
I figured I’d look on the bright side.
With no Winterhaven Ward Cleavers decking their halls,
There’ll be no hammered thumbs, no saw cuts and no ladder falls.
No staple gun “incidents,”
No 9-1-1 calls!
No Winterhaven, no electric Santa and no Charlie Brown.
That was the Christmas we all hunkered down.
Could Christmas get canceled and not come to town?
Silly me. I was just a kid. What was I thinking?
Just because Winterhaven’s bright lights had stopped blinking?
Christmas is more than a place, that much I know.
It’s more than dancing elves or an amazing light show.
It’s more than “HAPPY HOLIDAYS” in big flashing letters,
It’s more than singing snowbirds and chihuahuas in sweaters,
It’s more than boxes of lights on a shelf.
It’s children who still believe in a jolly old elf.
It’s the dream of peace on earth.
And goodwill to all.
It’s random acts of kindness,
And that’s not all.
It’s more than one light festival. Here it is in sum:
Christmas is the promise of better days yet-to-come.
We were the lucky ones. We all survived.
And on December 25th? Christmas still managed to arrive.
Gifts were given and candles were lit,
Grandma and Grandpa on zoom were a hit,
Jingle bells were rung and Grace was said.
We prayed for the sick. We prayed for the dead.
We prayed for the healers and gave thanks for the vaccines,
For Christmases-to-come, and the days in between.
We masked up. We did the right thing.
We looked to the promise of the coming Spring.
And that’s when I heard stories of a meeting of Winterhavians
Under a Winterhaven tree.
At Christmas Avenue and Kleindale at quarter past three.
And what I heard made me cheer,
after surviving that year.
On the group’s agenda, item one:
Winterhaven Festival of Lights.
David Fitzsimmons: email@example.com.