IMPORTANT: If you love our show, let us know!
After months of preparation our light show is ready for tonight and we are close to having our home open. This year has been much more difficult than past years because Michelle is also working full-time on Skado and I have extra duties as Mayor of Laguna Hills.
We are blessed to live in a neighborhood that loves to decorate. http://www.nelliegailranch.org/Gallery/15648~9132. In fact, Nellie Gail has a long history of decorating. For many years the second tallest Christmas Tree in the United States adorned one of our neighbor’s driveways. It attracted visitors from all over the world who enjoyed its owner’s selfless contribution whose only motivation was to bring a smile to peoples’ faces.
The purpose of our Christmas Lights (Holiday really, we even have a Jewish section) is no different. For so many people Christmas is not a time of happiness. There are broken families, illnesses and financial struggles all tied up into a time that is intended to bring joy.
While Michelle and I have hundreds of stories, one that sticks out in my mind is that of a kind lady who lives a block from us. Let’s call her Amy. By all visible accounts Amy has the dream life. He and her husband are blessed with extraordinary intelligence and tenacity, thus enjoying great careers. They live near us in Nellie Gail (and the city of Laguna Hills is the best place to live in all of the world!!) They have a beautiful, close, multi-generational family, with gorgeous children. While there is no question that Amy has worked for it, she and her husband seem to “have it all”. Last year, Amy was in front of our home enjoying our lights. I struck up a conversation with her while offering her some warm apple cider and mentioned that I remembered seeing her many days the year before. Amy confirmed that she and her family were indeed at our home nearly every evening the prior December (they live within walking distance). Then, the sweet story turned sour. A few months before Christmas of 2012, Amy contracted a terrible form of cancer. One with only a 20% chance of survival. During the holidays she was under-going chemotherapy and it was making her extraordinarily sick. Amy worried about being taken from her family and wanted to spend as much time as possible with her husband and kids. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the energy to go to Disneyland, or the Boat Parade or any of the traditional popular Orange County attractions. Amy also was burdened with the heavy weight of her sickness worsening throughout the evening and thus she needed to be close to home in order to quickly get rest. So, each night, Amy brought her family here. At our home, there was no cost or condition. She could show up and leave when she pleased and was under no pressure to do anything. He kids were thrilled with something fun to do and she enjoyed the coveted time with her family in case the drastic measures her doctors were taking to save her life didn’t have the desired result. By evidence of me telling this story, it has a happy ending. Amy and her family were here the next year to relay to me the contribution the joy of our lights and decorations made to her health, to her family and to the community. She told me of the hope they brought to her. Amy is why we start in August each year decorating. There are hundreds of stories like Amy’s. We have even had multiple marriage proposals in front of our home and have met the little blessings that came each wedding.
To say that we have the most lights, or the best show of anyone in Nellie Gail would be disingenuous. Our neighborhood tends to decorate. The Gingerbread house, right down the street from us, is far better than ours. The owner’s son Brett, who has transformed from the kid who cheerfully strung lights on his folk’s house, into a famous lighting artist (with credits like Disneyland and Universal Studios) and now into famous movie producer, ensures that their home turns into a shining gingerbread palace each year. So, while we are far from the best home in Nellie Gail, we do love decorating and seeing the smiles, and hope, that it brings to our neighbors.
As I have learned being Mayor of Laguna Hills, with each good thing, there is often something of concern. While no one has ever come up to me and talked about it, I remain conscious of traffic generated by Nellie Gail’s bent towards celebrating the holidays by lighting our homes. While I don’t consider this a negative because I know of a new home owner who discovered our fantastic neighborhood by coming here to see Christmas Lights, then subsequently purchasing a home and increasing our housing values, I am always struggling with how to ensure that our neighborhoods enjoyment doesn’t cause anyone extra difficulty. Thus, this year, Michelle and I are changing the start time of our light show from 5pm to 6pm. Home tours will start at about 6:15pm. While I don’t believe that this will actually reduce any holiday traffic, as there are so many homes that people come to enjoy, perhaps it will start a trend of other generous decorators to do the same. The downside of this is that many families come by before they head out to dinner, or are here at 5pm because they have little kids with early bed times. To the families who will miss our show due to this change, I am sorry. Nellie Gail had plenty of holiday traffic before we started decorating and will continue to have even more holiday traffic after us. Regardless, this is the trade-off that we are making this year. So, if you are wanting to enjoy our lights please come after 6pm.
Last years’ Orange Coast Magazine summed up what we do in a very kind way http://www.orangecoast.com/essays/rituals-100000-guests-for-cider/. In addition to providing smiles our Light Show collects over 2,000 toys each year for the Firefighter’s Spark of Love Toy Drive. Throughout December, the Orange County Fire Department brings a fire engine down our road, when the lights are one, to collect baskets and baskets of toys that have been generously donated by you. We live on a very wide road which can support multiple lanes of traffic, even huge fire trucks.
Unfortunately, for the very first time in six year, we are hearing rumors that there are a couple of anonymous folks who are not happy with our efforts for whatever reason. We decorate entirely out of our own pocket during this season of love and giving (as do so many of our neighbors) asking nothing in return other than people consider a toy donation to help kids who have had a tough year. Seeing the smiles of wonder from kids and adults alike warms our hearts more than I can express and makes our family’s Christmas.
In this vain, Michelle, Faith, Ethan and I need your help. If you love our show, please let us know. Please write us an email to email@example.com or, better yet, send us a letter to 25473 Nellie Gail Road, Laguna Hills, CA 92653. Please tell us your story and what our lights, and those in our neighborhood, have meant to your family. While we are certainly no “boat parade”, what our neighbors do here is special and worthy of recognition. The more letters the better. If you have come by in prior years or intend to this year, please send us some Christmas cheer.
Thank you for listening. If you love our show, let us know!
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Orange County Register Article
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25473 Nellie Gail Road
Laguna Hills, California