The Garden of Lights and the Power of Subject Matter
Today Ryan Somma and I drove up to Norfolk, Virginia and had a day full of ideals and sentiment and Christmas spirit. We started off visiting the American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Chrysler Musuem. Next we caught a showing of “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Naro Cinema (I had actually never seen that film before!). We had supper and then the grand finale– Driving through the “Garden of Lights” at the Norfolk Botanical Garden.
I’m on a Christmas Light streak! In 2006, I toured lights in Wichita, Kansas. In 2007, I got to see Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights in Evansville, Indiana. There were some surprising similarities, particularly the Christmas Dragon.
So for 2008 in Norfolk, Virginia, I expected to see more of the same and it appeared that way as we inched by familiar looking lollipops, snowflakes and candycanes waiting to enter the park.
But once we paid our entrance fee, there was a definite theme to the lights:
I had figured the “Garden” in “Garden of Lights” was simply a reference to the locale. But it truly was a Garden of Lights! They had trees, apples, spiderwebs, caterpillars, pumpkins, daisies, butterflies, tulips, roses, fall leaves, mushrooms. They even had a waterfall and a nice little lighted river.
The summer of 1988, my father and I played in a Regional Bridge Tournament up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. While we competed, my mother and my two siblings went site-seeing. One day they went to this awesome wax musuem. Both my brother and my sister raved about how cool it was and all the historic characters depicted in the museum. They got to see that and I was stuck looking at the same set of 52 cards for 8 hours. I was soooooo jealous. (Note: During my bridge career I also found myself jealous of the caddies who got to sit around and shoot rubberbands at each other all day, so it really didn’t take all that much to spark my envy).
I probably pestered my partner (a.k.a Dad) relentlessly about poor me and how deprived I was because I missed out on the wax museum. I say this because at the very next bridge tournament, my father promptly found a wax museum and took me to it. So just like the Baby Cry and Dry incident in the early eighties when Santa forget what I wanted, my Daddy was the hero, right?
Well….this tournament was in Nashville, Tennessee and instead of familiar founding fathers, Dad and I got to look at likenesses of Country Music stars. Country Music, a genre I would not really be exposed to for 20 more years when I developed a fondness for Taylor Swift. So the only person I recognized in the entire museum was…Dolly Parton. Looking at wax strangers wasn’t all that fun.
I was thirteen years old at the time and my conclusion from that experience was:
Subject matter makes a difference in wax museums.
Tonight I am two decades wiser and I have a corollary. I believe subject matter makes a difference in Christmas lights as well. Don’t get me wrong– I definitely enjoyed the lights in Wichita and Evansville.
But I really, really, really, enjoyed the lights in Norfolk.