“Callaway Gardens has a package deal for their Christmas Fantasy in Lights. We could stay in a cottage and take a tram in the evening to see the lights. Want to go?”
Stephanie and I both nodded enthusiastically. Whenever Gloria asked us if we wanted to go somewhere, we always said yes. She could make the most mundane trips into memorable adventures. Remind me to tell you about the time we ended up sitting in a vat of boiling tea together.
Callaway Gardens is a lovely resort about an hour south of Atlanta. The golf courses are beautiful, the accommodations are stunning, and the food is divine. In the spring, the azaleas make you wish you were talented enough to paint the scenery to take home with you, but you know you’d never capture the brilliance of the pinks, reds, and whites nestled between the greens and browns of the Georgia pines. Even photographs don’t do justice to the beauty of the landscape. The resort also has a spa, which is a major drawing point for me. After my massage on Saturday afternoon, I felt so good I was up for anything.
For several years now, I’ve been a bit of a humbug about Christmas. Put it this way, my favorite Christmas sweatshirt has a picture of Disney’s Grumpy on the front and the heartfelt sentiment “Fa La La Yourself” underneath him. Enough said.
But on Saturday night, I found myself sliding across a muddy parking lot/cow pasture so I could wait in line to take an open air tram to see some Christmas lights. It was cold and breezy, but it had stopped raining earlier in the day. Boy, was I…um…lucky.
A cheerful young man directed us to the correct line. Since we were staying at the resort, we were VIP’s; that always works for me. Gloria, huddled in front of me so I could block the wind, toted her blanket. “Good idea to bring that blanket, ma’am,” the young man approved. “You might could need it out there. It gets mighty cold.”
I didn’t roll my eyes, I swear. I wanted to, though. As an English teacher from Pennsylvania, I didn’t find the whole “might could” Southernism particularly charming. There was a high school English teacher somewhere in central Georgia who might could have taught a little better. I’m just saying.
We got on the tram, and Gloria adjusted her blanket. The recorded track started, explaining that we were in a one-horse open sleigh, and that the horse’s name was Fred. We were then encouraged to sing “Jingle Bells” as our sleigh took off, headed for the 18 lighted scenes that were sure to put us in a holiday mood. If my hand wouldn’t have frozen solid if I’d taken it out of my pocket, I would have tried to rub away the headache threatening my temples.
I had to admit, the first few scenes were cute. Mrs. Santa playing the fiddle in her country band was adorable. Who knew Santa Claus is Coming to Town would sound so great in bluegrass? The young children around me were wide-eyed with wonder at the lights, and were enjoying singing along with the Christmas carols. I was starting to melt, even though my toes were beginning to freeze.
It was the scene with the lit snowflakes that finally shattered the frozen shell of “I hate Christmas” that I’d pulled around me. It was quite simply one of the most magical places I had ever seen. The glade in the pine forest was a fairytale come true.
“…and the grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day,” Gloria murmured in my ear through frozen lips as we climbed off the tram.
I frowned at her.
“I heard you singing along,” she laughed. “You had a good time.”
I didn’t bother to deny it; she knew me too well. “Whatever.”
Stephanie laughed and linked arms with us. “Hot chocolate!” she declared. “We need some hot chocolate right this very minute.”
“…and a deep-fried Snickers bar,” Gloria added in the tune of ‘…a partridge in a pear tree.’
We took our hot chocolate and fried Snickers bars back to our cabin, lit a fire in the fireplace, and enjoyed the peace that comes when you relax with good friends.
It was another memorable weekend, Gloria. Thanks, sweetie.