Forest Park elves are still working

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Forest Park elves are working away in that little clearing in the trees. Oh, I know it’s been years since that Christmas display was actually on display at the Burgess house. Nonetheless, the elves are busy hammering away in my memory.

Santa in a bright red suit waves from the Western Auto window. Behind him, magic awaits in the toy land that lives inside the store. There hasn’t been a Western Auto in Opp for a long time, but in my store of Christmas memories that Santa is as real as ever.

All the sights and sounds of my childhood come to life this time of year. It takes the slightest hint to bring them rushing back as real as they were when I was small.

The other day, it was a song on the radio — the original version of “The Little Drummer Boy” recorded in the 1950s. I remember the first time I heard it and got lost in the sound of the voices and the drum beating in the background.

As the music filled the car, I was back in my upstairs room listening to the 45 record I rushed out and bought after hearing the song. I found it at the little record store on Covington Avenue and played it so many times that year it’s a wonder I didn’t wear it out.

Then someone on Facebook mentioned the elves at the Burgess house and boom, I saw them again.

One of the highlights of the holidays was the night we went, as Daddy called it, “riding around.” We piled in the station wagon, often in our pajamas in case some of us fell asleep on the ride.

There were blankets and sometimes a favorite pillow riding with us. We rode all over town checking out the Christmas trees shining in people’s windows and the big tree sparkling beside the post office.

Daddy saved the best for last — Forest Park and the elves. These were the days before folks had inflatable snowmen and Santas. Few houses had decorations other than a Christmas tree and a wreath on the door.

Those places with more than that got the attention of all the children in town. The Burgess house was that place you wanted to see.

I don’t know what powered the elves or who made them, but those wooden figures brought such joy to so many kids. There were times when we couldn’t stop for long to watch them working because of the line of cars behind us waiting for a turn.

Funny how the lovely memories of childhood linger. In addition, they are more than thoughts or images that pop up in my head. With them come the feelings of that little girl looking out of the car window on a cold December night.

It’s a feeling of joy and comfort and security. I’m there wrapped in my blanket, Daddy and Mother softly talking in the front seat while the passing lights of Christmas sparkle in their children’s eyes.

This year with all the chatter of the world bringing anything but comfort and joy, it’s nice to take a short trip back to that time of innocence. Letting those feelings from so long ago bubble up and hold me for a while is a sweet break from what passes for reality these days.

As I looked at pictures of kids visiting Andalusia’s own Christmas wonderland, I saw in their faces that same magical sparkle from my childhood. They are creating memories that will return for them some day when the world seems less than a joyful place.

So, thank you to all the grown ups, past and present, who create places and experiences of wonder that feed our souls long after we are grown.

Yes, the Forest Park elves are still working and the Western Auto Santa waves to me from my innocence. It is Christmastime and if only for a moment, I am a child again residing in wonderland.

Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.