Ronald Kidd - December 24, 2020

I Was a Marching
Christmas Tree

They called it the Magic Kingdom, but I just wanted to get out of there alive.

A college student at the time, I was hoping to pick up a few extra bucks over the holidays. In checking around, I learned that Disneyland hired musicians for their Main Street Christmas Parade, a procession that featured Mickey, Minnie, and the gang, plus several hundred marching musicians playing Christmas carols and trying to stay in step.

I was hired and assigned to the Christmas tree unit. An eight-foot, cone-shaped contraption made of metal and green tinsel was lowered onto my shoulders and strapped on tight. There was a hole roughly a foot in diameter next to my face, big enough to stick my trumpet through and play “O Tannenbaum” but not big enough to see out of.

For the next two weeks I marched through the park twice a day, sure that I was about to trip. My greatest fear was that a sadistic child would push me and send me sprawling upside down, legs flailing, like a turtle that’s been flipped onto its back.

Scary Christmas!

Our Candy Cane Lane

When I was a kid, my family moved to Los Angeles, where we settled into what seemed to be a normal neighborhood. (I'm the one on the right.) But as the holidays approached, we learned the truth. Our neighborhood was famous. 

Beginning in December, cars drove slowly up and down the streets, headlights dimmed, taking in a Disneyland of decorations. House after house was covered with lights. Front yards were crowded with Santas, elves, and reindeer. Christmas carols boomed out over loudspeakers.

Each street in the neighborhood had a theme: Candy Cane Lane was the most famous, but you could also cruise Carolers’ Way and Avenue of the Bells. Our street, Oakdale Avenue, was Candelight Lane, and some neighbors came by to present us with a big electric candle to set up in our yard.   

Most people would have accepted the candle passively, but my dad was not most people. He loved holiday parties, cards, and decorations, and he was determined to dream up something unique for our house. He sat at the dining table and began sketching. By the time he got up, he was ready to go.  

Our house had a big picture window from floor to ceiling in the front room. My dad, using a black crayon, transferred his sketch to the window and color-coded the original sketch. Then he bought some tempera paints, and the whole family—my mom and dad, brother Russ, sister Carol, and me—began painting. 

When we finished, my dad set up a bright light inside and trained it on the window. We went out front, and presto! We had a stained glass window showing the star, shepherds, wise men, manger, and holy family. 

Today Candy Cane Lane is bigger and brighter than ever. But I like to think that, years ago, all the lights and candles were outshone in our window by Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and my dad’s unbounded imagination.

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