We stop at the light on 101, turn right
up State, and pull over to the curb …
my father shifts the Hydramatic
of our shell-white Pontiac into Park,
and the orange glowing moon
of the cigarette lighter rises
from the dash as my parents light-up
I lean over
the middle of the wide front seat
to gaze at the arc of decorations,
the air sparkling for as far as I can see—
ice-colored stars and golden bells,
red wreaths hanging from each street lamp—
and soon we begin swerving
around the wide white bases
of 20 foot Christmas trees stationed
in the middle of the street.
before Christmas, and all the shops
are open until 9:00, sidewalks
packed, cars jamming all four lanes.
There's OTTS with electric trains
circling in and out of paper maché
Swiss Alps, a display of baseball
Gloves and bats—The White House
where we buy my school uniforms
the color of the sea. To the right,
De la Guerra Plaza with blue, red,
orange and green bulbs strung
between the palms, and the bright,
office of Western Union where I once
cut my chin on the marble counter top.
Carrillo Street, Silverwoods on the corner
where my father's sport coats come from,
a glow beneath the Florsheim shoes …
then the house-high windows of Woolworths,
our station wagon reflecting in them
as we stop at the signal, and I. Magnin
where I sit on the one chair while
my mother looks at the new beige fashions.
We pass the smoky haze of Pelch & Sons,
the boxes of Panatellas glistening
behind the glass. I look out the back window
to the tall Balboa Building where
my father reads the evening news
on KTMS; I point to a gleaming blue Cadillac
gliding by. At Anapamu "Silver Bells"
by the McGuire Sisters is piped through
speakers at the base of a tree, and
diners in line at the Copper Coffee Pot
move slowly in a glimmering hive.
Neon shimmers on the marquee
of the Granada Theater, and the spire
of the Fox Arlington, where I saw Peter Pan,
disappears into the stars … three of us,
in the calm dark of the car,
surrounded by all the light
it seemed the world would ever need.
Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Winter 2014/15.