Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Things my father shared with me: a bit of Christmas magic on Madison's East Side


Most Christmas magic can't be captured on film or a computer chip, but sometimes an image can help to evoke a memory, or send someone else on a quest to experience the magic in person.

The above photo is of a house on the 2500 block of Upham Street on Madison's East Side. My father introduced me to this glowing work of art, so I know it's been a part of my Christmas celebration for more than a decade. The first time I saw this house, my father was my guide, the man behind the wheel who wanted to share his discovery. When he could no longer drive, I drove and we continued to enjoy this extravaganza together every year. After he died, driving past the house on Upham Street became an annual ritual, a way to remember my father, a way to be with him in spirit during the Christmas season.

Some years I've been able to introduce friends to the house on Upham Street, sharing a bit of one of my Christmas traditions with them. But even when everyone else was too busy to go for a ride, I've made a trip across town to make certain the Christmas lights were still aglow.

And as often as possible, I try to park a block or so away from the house on Upham Street, and take a walk to see what can't be shown in a single photo. What really makes the decorations on this house special is that the lights cover and illuminate the entire house: front, back, sides, and backyard. I've peeked around corners and craned my neck to catch a glimpse of as many lights as possible, but ever the obedient daughter, I follow my father's instructions and stay on the sidewalk: I don't go too close, I don't trespass, I don't ring the doorbell. I don't want to break the spell. I want the magic to endure year after year after year.

1 comment:

D Strand said...

Dear Nadine,
Thanks so much for that picture. It's a great shot! The color is fantastic on line. And thanks so much for the story. I was wondering if you knew who lived there and then you told about the Christmas mystery for so many years. I wonder if the same people have lived there all those years? I wonder if anyone who lived there has died or done anything noteworthy. Being an Eastsider myself, I have been on Upham Street from time to time and the house does look familiar to me. I know two people from Upham Street and they are very special friends, Mark Bartelt, a Madison Lutheran classmate and Henry Busch whom I'm sure that you know. What a neat thing it would be if someone we know lives there! Some other Centralite, other than you could knock on the door and find out! From your tale, I guess you live on the West Side now. What a shame! Say hello to Dick Phaler and John Schweers!
Seriously, though, I love the picture and will expand it, print it, and hang it in my cubicle next to another picture that I got from your blog!