4:57 PM EST, November 27, 2012
With this year's Thanksgiving the earliest it could occur, lights have gone on earlier than usual, too. Some in the neighborhood were unintentional lights of the season.
While driving down Roland Avenue on a mid-November Friday night, light shone from the top of the Roland Water Tower. From a distance the light looked dim, so we continued past our house to the tower. People in large, white suits were milling around in front, looking like creatures from outer space. They were on the job, removing hundreds of pounds of pigeon guano that had accumulated over the years inside of the tower.
I believe it was the first time that the tower had ever been lighted. Certainly, it was the first time I had seen it in the 60 years I have lived in the neighborhood. I hope it is not the last.
Funds for restoration of the tower are almost complete. I hope that as part of the restoration, Roland Park and the surrounding communities that are part of the Greater Roland Park master plan will consider permanently lighting the tower at night. The lights would not have to be too bright or a disruption to birds and planes. They could be a little brighter than they were that November evening and showcase the tower's historic, statuesque beauty. Lights might also serve as a beacon to other city communities that positive change is possible. It would also be fun if the lights could change colors: purple for the Ravens and red, white and blue on the Fourth of July, when perhaps the annual Roland Park parade might begin at the tower some years.
The week before Thanksgiving a new neighbor on our street strung strands of white lights. He was testing them on a Sunday evening, when I happened to be taking a walk. He explained that he would be away the following two weekends and wanted to be sure the lights were strung before mid-December. No need for explanation; it's never too early for me to see holiday lights. I love the pair of trees farther down the street that are lighted all year. And in November, as we approach the longest day of the year, the more lights to brighten the darkest nights, the better.
As I returned home that evening, I saw interior house lights that I had not seen in a long time. These were not holiday lights but routine household lamps. The first shone inside the house where a fire five years ago was responsible for the death of two of the children. I jumped when I saw those lights, but it was so good to see them, as well as a familiar car in front. As I passed, I looked away, wanting to give the family on their return as much privacy as possible.
Closer to home, a light was on on the third floor of our next-door neighbors' house. It was the bedroom light of the youngest brother, one of four adult siblings who, with their parents and uncle, lived next door when we moved to our house in the 1950s. Thirty years older than my sister and me, this youngest brother was the one who, with his sister, played badminton and threw the ball with us, saw from his third-floor perch robbers breaking into our house and caught them, and later offered to work on our house when I returned as an adult.
He died this year. Every so often I think I see his round, always-bald head pop out of his house. Having the light on his room on a dark, November evening made me think of lights of remembrance, as well as lights of hope and joy, at the holidays.