We live in a magical place.
Saturday was Missoula's annual Christmas kick-off celebration, and, though we hesitated when we found out that Brian would have to be working that day, Laurelei, Riley and I decided to go as a threesome anyway. I love our downtown neighborhood and all the businesses, both quaint and quirky, that fill it (whenever we're going there the kids and I sing a rather raucous rendition of 'Downtown' by Petula Clark on the way), so I was excited to have an excuse to spend the better part of the day wandering the city sidewalks (which, by the way, were dressed in holiday style).
We stopped here and there, at the organizations participating in the day's festivities: making ornaments at the Missoula Art Museum, eating lunch at a yummy sandwich shop, petting ponies at the ambrosial local ice creamery, Big Dipper, riding the carousel, making another ornament at Selvedge Studio (the hippest little fabric store in town), getting hot cocoa at our favorite cafe, watching the annual parade of lights and then joining the throng of merry-makers gathered for the lighting of the town Christmas tree.
Which seems like a lot. It was a lot.
When I think about it, the day could have easily turned into one of those forced family fun outings, during which the parents drag the children from one activity to the next as the children grow ever more overwhelmed and weary and the parents keep repeating, "Isn't this fun?" with a manic look in their twitching eyes, but, for some reason, it wasn't.
It was a slow, moment-by-moment, magic day. Maybe it was the break we took after lunch to attend the baptism of a friend; the quiet and renewal of that small hour.
Maybe it was that we came home for a few minutes mid-afternoon to change into warmer clothes for the parade, thereby avoiding the crankiness that inevitably comes with cold toes.
Maybe it was that we all just really wanted to be there, in our community, doing things that we felt a part of.
Whatever it was, as the Christmas tree lights went on, silvery-white snowflakes began to fall.
We each caught our breath for a moment in the night air, tilted our faces to the sky and smiled.