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VIEWPOINT: It's OK to get a little lost in Woodbury

When I was a little girl, my family would spend evenings during the holiday season driving around town, looking at all of the pretty Christmas lights that were twinkling in the night.

We drove up and down streets. Some houses only had a string or two around a windowsill, others were ablaze in color. Many yards had Nativity scenes set out, too.

It’s one of my favorite holiday memories.

These days, it seems like I do so much driving, but I never really take the time to appreciate where I am, or what’s happening in front of me. I head from Point A to Point B. Most of the time, if I’m looking at a red or green light, it’s to see if I have to stop or go.

And really paying attention to Christmas lights? Well, maybe once in awhile. But not so much.

This week, though, we needed a feature photo for the front page. Mother Nature has held out on the snow, so there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity to get pictures of snowmen or kids sledding or any of those other seasonal photos that seem to come along this time of the year.

But there are lights. Lots and lots of them.

I’ll say, at this point, that I thought I’d get this kind of photo last year, too. Only, last year, I had just been in Woodbury for a month, and I didn’t really know my way around too well. For lack of a better excuse, I chickened out on the driving aimlessly thing, for fear I’d be lost forever in a maze of endless streets.

Well, I’ve been here in Woodbury for almost 13 months now, and I’m feeling a little better about knowing my way around. Sure, I might get lost – I did get lost, and in a neighborhood I knew well 20 years ago – but I’ve gotten to know my way around enough that I figured I’d be able to get myself unlost if I had to.

So I set off last Wednesday night, looking for Christmas lights in Woodbury. Looking for the houses that were decked out to the hilt, looking for ones that would have displays that were front page-worthy.

Clearly, I underestimated how long this adventure could take. Woodbury is a big, big town.

I drove around a couple sections of Woodbury. I found a few houses that were pretty spectacularly decked out, somewhere over by Ojibway Park. Crossed over Woodlane Drive to the area – I thought – where one of my closest friends had lived 20 years ago. Turns out my memory isn’t that good. While I did see lots of pretty, decorated yards along the way, I didn’t exactly remember how to get out of there. But that’s another story.

I wound up back on Woodlane, and was temporarily distracted by the flashing lights of two fire engines roaring up to the intersection. Christmas lights or not, no self-respecting reporter doesn’t follow a fire truck when the opportunity presents itself. Fortunately, it was not a serious call, and I continued on my way.

Eventually, I wound up on the very northwest side of Woodbury, near Century Avenue and Woodbine Avenue. And … Wow.

It’s like Christmas exploded over there.

I got out of my car and walked down the street. I had to really take my time to take in everything that was happening in that neighborhood. One yard had a box set up to collect Toys for Tots. Another was accepting donations to Second Hand Harvest Food Shelf.

And the neighbor down the street from all of this clearly has a good sense of humor – there’s a giant arrow, pointing to the decorated yards, that simply reads, “Ditto.”

What fun that was. I don’t think I’ve had that much fun looking a Christmas lights since I was a kid riding in the back of my parents’ station wagon.

Now, I know I missed a bunch of houses – probably hundreds of them – around Woodbury, and I apologize if I didn’t get to your neighborhoods. But you know what? Here’s my thought, my holiday wish for Woodbury:

Pack up your family one night this week. Go for a drive around the community. Stop and look at all of the lights. Spend time together. Get yourself a little lost in Woodbury; but more importantly, get yourself a little lost in the season.

Make those memories.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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