Saturday, December 23, 2017

Hometown Happenings at Christmas—Texas Celebrates the Holidays in a Big Way! Livingston, Nacadoches, Lufkin

We decided to stay the holiday season at home base in Livingston, giving Dad time to recuperate physically from his heart attack, and Mom time to recover emotionally.

That doesn’t mean we’ve been couch potatoes, though.  We volunteered at the two Boot Camps here in Livingston sponsored by Escapees RV Club.  We met some terrific new folks and reconnected with old friends by serving meals and participating on the round table panel about living the full-time RVer lifestyle.  Panel topics ranged from work-camping, to domicile, to mechanical issues, to boondocking.  Since we are now in our sixth year of full-timing, and having planned for and researched the lifestyle for nearly 14 years prior to implementation, my parents can offer some insight to newbies or soon-to-be full-timers.  Mom always stresses, however, that there is no one-size-fits-all answers or best options in this lifestyle.  Like in every segment of life, people have different goals, financial situations, tolerance levels, etc.  So our choices, decisions, and plans, which have worked out well for us, may not produce the same results for someone else.

Dad is now joining Mom and me for our daily walks.  We clock more than 5 miles a day religiously.  I must say, however, the walks are a bit stressful.  No one in this neck of the Texas woods believes in leash laws, and we are constantly being attacked, growled at, and antagonized by territorial dogs!  We notice that although it is December, the trees still have some colorful canopies.

We’ve done a bit of entertaining here.  Friends and co-workers from Amazon, Robert and Cassandra, were back home in Livingston after spending 6 months work-camping in Alaska.  And Robert, as a fellow Masonic brother to Dad, was very kind and thoughtful during Dad’s medical crisis.  So what better way to express our thanks than by hosting them for dinner.  We were intrigued to learn about their Alaskan experience, while reminiscing about our own trek to Alaska in 2016.  They will be spending Christmas with us as well, as they just returned from a Mediterranean cruise that we want to hear all about.

We were so thrilled that good friends, fellow full-timers, and terrific co-workers from the Grand Canyon Association, Raymond, Debra, and Princess the doggie, stopped to visit with us on their way to their home base in Florida.  Great conversation, camaraderie, and endless laughter, we didn’t want to see them go!  They were such good sports, too, letting Mom test out some new recipes on them.


We have participated in several campground activities, including movie nights, line dancing, and an Xscapers- sponsored astronomy night.   We viewed planets, super novas, and other galactic wonders through telescopes so sophisticated and huge, our own telescope looks like a toy kaleidoscope in comparison!

We kicked off our holiday season on Thanksgiving weekend with our traditional activities---enjoying one of Mom’s full blown, multi-coursed dinners (albeit with a whole new menu to remain compliant with our more plant-based diets), watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and decorating for Christmas.  

Mom absolutely loves Christmas, and buying ornaments was her guilty pleasure.  When we hit the road full-time, Mom insisted on keeping "a few" decorations and ornaments from our sticks and bricks days.  Although we don’t have a tree in our RV, she proudly displays a small segment of her prior ornament collection on lighted garland.  Mom goes a bit overboard, decorating everything--including me, Tabby, and even the fish tank!  The fishies and I tolerate her antics; Tabby is not as accommodating.

Even the fish tank is decorated!

The Grinch Cat

When it comes to the Christmas season, no one does it better than Texas (although we do miss New York City this time of year)!  Livingston is a small city (2010 census population = 5,335), but it celebrates Christmas in a big way.    Each week brought a new activity for us to attend.  Every park in Livingston, from Pedigo to Penguin, is decorated with lights.  Free hayrides, hot chocolate, and one big-ass bonfire added to the ambiance at Pedigo Park.

Penguin Park

Pedigo Park...

The First Baptist Church of Livingston had a superb re-enactment of the town of Bethlehem, from live animals (lambs, goats, camels, donkeys), to costumed tradespeople performing their tasks (like bakers, blacksmiths, basketmakers, etc.), to the Three Wise Men, to the Babe in the Manger.  The event was topped off with the sounds of harmonious choirs, refreshments, and fellowship.   Fortunately, we arrived early on the first of its three nights—there were hundreds of people lined up to get in as we were finishing up!  

The Hometown Christmas Fair, held on December 9, offered arts, crafts, food, fun for kids (face-painting, bouncy-bounces), etc., and culminated with the Christmas Parade at 6 p.m.  We were entertained by bands, decorative floats, clowns, classic cars, dancing dinosaurs, even Kris Kringle himself!

Dancing Dinosaurs

The Polk County Heritage Society, which maintains Locomotive #5, also sponsors a Christmas Train Village.  Though not a huge display, it is one of the most clever and interesting ones we have ever seen.  You see, like a treasure hunt, the set-up includes various figures (like dinosaurs, unicorns, Peanuts' Snoopy, even insects) hidden within the display for the spectators to find.  This stuffed rat was the only one of our group to find the statue of John Adams hidden among the trees!

Locomotive #5 all decked out! 

Our Christmas activities were not limited just to Livingston, though.  We attended the Festival of Lights within Lufkin's Museum of East Texas, which was once the home of St. Cypian’s Episcopal Church, the oldest church in East Texas. Local businesses and families donate from $50 to $1,000 for a 4 foot to 12 foot tree and then decorate it, in their own special way, for all the rest of us to enjoy!  Some are quite ornate, others more simple.  Some are decorated traditionally, others quite imaginatively, like the local pest control company’s tree decorated with stuffed insects!   Regardless of its decorations, each and every tree brought a smile to my face and evoked joy in my heart.

Texans LUV Whataburger!  Several folks were drooling just looking at the tree!

The veterinary clinic's tree.  That dog in the house looks real!

The pest control company's tree!

Simply but cleverly decorated!

The upside down tree, this year's hot new trend!

Elaborate and elegant!

I could sit here FOREVER just admiring and enjoying the 150+ trees on display!

We perused the rest of the museum's exhibits, including the sculptures on the grounds.

This scale model of a sculpture entitled "They Said It Couldn't Be Done" pays homage to the people who built the Alaskan Pipeline, many of whom hailed from Texas.  We actually saw the original, full-size sculpture up in Valdez last summer!

We also visited Nacadoches, starting at their Visitor Center.  The oldest town within Texas, it is named for the Caddo family of Indians, travelers and traders who migrated to the area about 800 AD.  It is said that they greeted the Spaniards in the 17th century with shouts of Taychas, which meant “friend”.  The Spaniards called the Caddos “Tejas”, from which the name Texas is derived.  While we had known of the six flags flown over Texas, we didn’t realize that nine flags actually flew over Nacadoches!  The Visitor Center had trees decorated with the different Flags that flew over Texas (except for the Confederate Flag).

The nine flags that flew over Nacadoches from the 1500s to present.

This tree is decorated with the flags from the three rebellions, Gutierrrez-Magee Expedition, Long Expedition, and Fredonia Rebellion.

The city is filled with lots of great history, including having the first oil field, first two-story building, and first wine cellar in all of Texas!

The town has a nice shopping district.   All the businesses decorate their store windows, not elaborately like Macy’s in New York City, but done tastefully, evoking fond memories for my parents of the local shops within their childhood hometowns.  

We stopped in the Cole Art Center, part of The Stephen F. Austin State University School of Art, to see their exhibitions, including a display of Christmas decorations dating from the early 1900s.  I realize now why Mom loves her ornaments and decorations so much—she has quite a few old pieces like those exhibited!

In recent years, lots of neighborhoods decorate their streets at Christmastime.  But Prestonwood Forest, a suburban Houston single-family housing community, has been hosting their Nite of Lites for 40 years!  With 70% of the homes participating, many neighbors on a street share a theme.  There’s Christmas at the Zoo, Patriotic Christmas, a Peanuts' Christmas, just to name a few.  Many of the decorations are hand-made (like those carved from wood), which make the displays even more special!  Loads of fun, although quite a tight squeeze for Big Boomer to get around all the cul-de-sacs!  Fortunately, we went early on a Monday evening, before traffic built up.

This "Dr. Who" themed street display includes the Tardis, the Daleks, and even the Weeping Angel (not pictured)!

This Patriotic-themed street wouldn't be complete without...

...The Statue of Liberty!

We took time from fun to volunteer for the solemn National Wreaths Across America Day, a coordinated effort of wreath-laying on the graves on American Veterans to remember and honor their service to our Country.  We laid about 10% of the more than 400 wreaths placed within Garden of Memories Memorial Park in Lufkin, TX.

We hope you are enjoying the holiday season as much as we are!  It's been an especially wonderful one for me, with Santa fulfilling my wish for a new off road vehicle!  My good behavior really paid off, putting me at the top of Santa's "nice" list!

Yours truly donning a Christmas present from Spitzlift, the manufacturers of the crane that lifts our new off-road vehicle onto Big Boomer's roof!  One terrific company to work with!

Wayne and Patti from Play 'N Around Sports.  Really great people to deal with when you want to buy a new "toy"!  My Christmas Gift List for next year will probably include an inflatable like this one to add to our collection!

My folks and I extend our best wishes to you and yours for a 2018 filled with good health, happiness, peace, love, and prosperity.  God Bless Us, Everyone!

We would like to thank some amazing organizations for all they do for the RVing community:

Escapees RV Club

Escapees RV Club

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