Snowflake Lane

Bellevue Square was packed.  I stood outside in the small square on the east side of Macy’s, just in front of the old Baskin-Robbins (closed).  The brisk air seemed right, and what seemed to be multitudes had gathered.  I didn’t manage to crowd-surfed out to see the numbers on Bellevue Way, but several hundred lingered in our little spot, eagerly awaiting the arrival of that particular form of holiday entertainment known as Snowflake Lane.  We know Snowflake Lane well in our house; Daniel sang and danced on one of those very same platforms several years ago.   Back then, we were the proud parents (still are) of one of the performers and of course, had a wonderful time.  And last night was fun enough, if (as I often say) you like that sort of thing.

I don’t remember a lot of what Daniel did during the show, but it seems he actually sang and danced along with various Christmas tunes, much as they did last night.  But they’ve gotten rid of everyone but the drummers.   The announcer said that we were going to experience one of the largest drum lines around, and I suppose we did, although frankly, my experience was no more than a cool half-dozen.

It’s not easy to brood in the midst of such high energy frothiness, but of course, I found a way.

My brooding was set off by the fact the fact that the drummers weren’t particularly skilled drummers.  In fact, they were playing along with canned music, hitting a few eighth notes on the rims and on the downbeat of every measure, they would whack the drumhead.   That’s about as good as it got (though I’m being a bit more tacky than these enthusiastic young people deserve).   Truth is, I appreciated and enjoyed the high-stepping dance they all did; fun to watch.  It’s always cool to see young people dancing like crazy people.   The only drawback was they danced the same simple dance for 20 minutes, whacking the drums as they did so.

And we hundreds seemed to think it was a really cool thing.   We drove an hour in traffic, braved all manner of pushing and shoving both coming and going, and barely escaped with our lives.  Give us marching band dancers in red whacking drums, throw in a little fake snow, and I guess we’ll do about anything.

I guess it just struck me as odd.

Children were delighted, of course, but then, my kids were always delighted to pull pans out of the cupboards and whack ’em with spoons.   In other words, it didn’t take much to get them excited.  Maybe I’m being a bit Scroogish, but after our Taize service at church, and after taking time to reflect on the need in culture for depth instead of width, this particular drum line conceptually struck me as shallow, superficial, and fairly antithetical to the deeper strains of Christmas, even the excitement of gift giving and love.  Pop Culture seems largely about distraction, and that was about the most concentrated bit of distraction I’ve seen in awhile.   Now don’t get me wrong–I’m the first person to defend the right of an event to be nothing but fun, nothing but delightful, and delight can come from many arenas.   So to argue with myself, I suppose the delight of the people standing along Bellevue way night after night to experience this manufactured holiday cheer is fine enough–stop complaining, Jeff.  Maybe I’d’ve been happier if some snowflakes had hit my particular spot in the lane.

It was good to be with family…Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Betty, Amy, Daniel, and Anjie.  We all stood gaping, remembering when Daniel danced along.   Maybe I’m just getting old.   Maybe I’m tired.   Or maybe my brain’s kicking in again, and things are getting clearer.    If nothing else, I’m hoping 2010 is about going deep.

…just the mood I’m in, probably…

3 Comments

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  1. Jeff,

    I’d have probably been put off like you by the drummers, but by more superficial reasons. Having studied music, taught band, and even been in a drumline before, I would have thought surely they could have rehearsed a little more…

    I think I like your “scroogish ways” better than mine, because yours do go deeper and mine seem to just go sideways. Good blog.

    -_Barry

  2. I wonder…did Daniel know every note of every song? Most of the performers get paid a small amount of money are are asked for a large commitment of time and energy. A half dozen is a good amount to see, considering the show reaches from Red Robin to the Hyatt, several hundred yards, on both sides of the street. I’ve seen the show a few times and appreciate the dedication and commitment of those who put it together. Sorry you can’t experience the same thing. After all, high school drummers literally playing an active role in our community is a great Christmas gift- even if they miss a note or two, the song is still right on point.

    • Jacob, fair enough. I don’t really mean to rag on the performers. I know what it’s like to be busting yourself for very little money perhaps in a venture that is not as well conceived as I might like. So hats off to the energy and dedication I saw. No worries there. As I said, I enjoyed the young people I was watching, though my overall enjoyment was probably less than most. My brooding had more to do with what it means that this is who we are as a culture. Conceptually. For children, no doubt it’s a special thing, and I’m glad we can create things that appeal to that magic place inside each of us. I guess this is the challenge: how do we take fun and delight and move it to the very essence of wonder? Or how do we not confuse excitement and flash and energy with real, no kidding wonder and awe, which is closer to what Christmas is really about?

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