The opening of the Nature in Light display at Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area signals the start of the holiday season for my family.

My boys were much younger during our first tour here. My husband was deployed, and celebrating the holiday season with our children fell solely on my shoulders. I believe we visited Nature in Lights at least five times that year.

My sons would start the trip snuggly strapped in their seats with care. Several times we squeezed a couple of their friends in for the visit, too. The boys all packed their books, games, and grabbed a few drinks and snacks, and the adventure would begin.

Once we made it inside the gates of BLORA I was forced to drive our truck very slowly through the more than five-mile long trail of lights. Since the vehicle was moving so slowly, I felt comfortable letting the boys unbuckle their seat belts to move over and better view lights from different windows in the truck.

I remember packing pillows and blankets during one late visit, and at least two children fell asleep during the slow crawl through the Christmas light display.

These are such fun memories.

What my boys didn’t know is that I used the visit to see the lights to more easily contain the boys for a break of my own.

During our trips to see the lights, the boys sat happily, snacking on crackers and juice bags, while looking out at the beautiful light displays. They weren’t running around the house, tearing up piles of freshly-folded laundry, screaming and fighting with each other.

While I cheered, “Let’s go see the lights!” I was secretly craving a couple hours of peace and calm during which I could relax and listen to the radio.

As grinchy as this may sound, I’m not terribly excited when the holiday season comes around.

Every couple of years we have to move, dragging boxes of holiday decorations along with us. We don’t usually know where we’re moving between postings, where we’ll be celebrating the future holidays.

Will our house be tall enough for the fake Christmas tree? Will we have places to hang the lights outside the new home? Where will I hide the gifts?

Some years I’ve plum run out of energy to play both Mrs. and Mr. Claus, as well as fill the roles of all the reindeer and elves.

Something in me snapped when all three boys were under the age of 6, with two of them in intensive therapies for their disabilities, and my husband was deployed to Iraq a couple months before Christmas. I had no desire to decorate the house, not even with the holiday-themed projects that my oldest son brought home from school.

Our next door neighbor knocked on the door. He explained that all of the neighbors decorated their houses every year for the holidays, and that my house was the only one not yet bedecked with lights. My nice neighbor offered to help me put the lights up. I politely thanked him, but asked if he would also help me take down the lights after the holidays were done and the temperatures had dropped below freezing. His response, “Well, my knees are bad, you know…”

A neighbor further down the street complained when city construction crews placed a porta-john in front of her immaculately decorated home. After she complained enough, the city moved the potty to a space in front of my non-lighted house.

Well, that certainly woke me up! I dragged out my boxes of lights and lit up the driveway all the way to the potty, and then covered the potty in lights, too. I hung a wreath outside the door, and special holiday paper inside, and then photographed my handiwork. My boys loved our non-traditional light display. The construction company asked to use the photograph for their Christmas cards.

Every year the holidays come upon us, and somehow we manage to celebrate the season in our own special way. Whether our front yard is bare or bedazzled with a Griswold-worthy light display, if we are all home together or Santa couldn’t make it across the ocean in his Stryker, we celebrate and make memories.

This year I look forward to sharing the Nature in Lights display once more with my boys, this time with the oldest one driving me through the trail at BLORA. Next year I’ll miss that son when he’s away at college. I hope that he comes home to visit us for Christmas break, and that we create more memories together in a new way.

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