Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Memory

Asa and I started dating in the fall of 1996. Our first date was a Joan Osborne concert, with the obligatory cup of tea after at the Frontier (my first trip to that venerable institution). This was followed by dinner-&-a-movie dates (Three Days in the Valley, The Long Kiss Goodnight). We decided to test our relationship further with a road trip - we went to Tucson the weekend before Thanksgiving that year, so that Asa could ride his fabulous bike in El Tour de Tucson. It was big fun and we were great traveling companions.

The Precious

Wanting to escalate the interest level of our dates, Asa got wind of the fledgling Route 66 Pedicab rides. They were doing a luminaria tour of Old Town on Christmas Eve.  The cabs were all decked out in greenery and ribbons, the drivers wore tail coats and top hats, the air was crisp and cool, and it was magic. We went on that tour every year for a dozen years or so - until Asa's health prohibited it. This was our favorite annual tradition, of which there were few; putting up our handful of decorations on my (deceased) mother's birthday, Dec. 16th, eating Chinese food, going to the movies on Christmas morning. For a while it seemed it was always a Lord of the Rings movie.

On those Christmas Eve rides we saw wonderful things. One family's yard was completely covered in blue and red glass candles around a rustic nativity. One house was fully engulfed in the tackiest lights possible, including a roof-mounted flashing arrow pointing to a neon-lit manger on the lawn. One year it snowed, another it rained. One year there was a brilliant full moon that reflected like a diamond from every ice-crusted eave. And every year the Old Town Christmas tree was breathtaking.
 (None of my photos ever came out this well - original at

One year our driver took us up on sidewalks and nearly into some storefronts. We saw the hidden Madonna and visited the Guadelupe Chapel. We saw the Christmas Llama. After a few years, the Pedicab Luminaria Tour expanded to include the Country Club area. There were tethered balloons in West Park having a Balloon Glow. There were lavish light displays and tasteful farolito paths. You could see Martha Stewart Christmas trees through House Beautiful living room windows. Everyone smiling, some caroling, here and there folks offering cups of warm cider or a plate of biscochitos. Families bundling into SUVs for that trip to Grandma's. Jingling bells. Laughing children. Joy to the world.

This is a pretty long winded prelude to just one particular memory. When we'd go on these rides, we learned after time that we needed to seriously bundle up, as the pedicab, with no roof, had us fully exposed to the elements. Asa had an old corduroy fedora he wore on these occasions. With multiple layers, we'd be plumped up like trussed hens, stuffed into the pedicab carriage, a bright lap robe over us.  About this time, Asa was walking with the aid of a cane. A very tall cane. He had it propped up next to him in the carriage on one side, with his arm around me on the other. I had to wrap a scarf around my face to keep from freezing, envying him his nice full beard.  We were jogging along through the Country Club neighborhood, our driver trying to maneuver around the tour buses. We got to talking about Christmas Past; Asa told me a story about being mistaken for Santa a time or two, when we came around a corner and saw a family group loading presents into their minivan. Traffic had stopped and we were at the end of their driveway. The littlest one, a boy of about 6, caught sight of us in our Victorian splendor and squealed out as he pointed at us -

"Look, Mom!  IT'S GANDALF!!"

Asa looked at me and said, "Now that's a first." And he waved at the kid, who seemed about to vibrate into another dimension.

Though our traditions have fallen away, one by one, and we've had to adapt to so many changes, some things never change. Love, Friendship, Family. We are forever grateful for our abundance of all three.

Merry Christmas, every one.