PASO ROBLES - Every year the Vine Street Victorian Showcase would roll around and since the first year where I made a complete fool of myself and walked right up onto someone’s private porch and began to help myself to hot cocoa and cookies, I have avoided the Vine Street celebration due to my own mild form of social PTSD.
Fortunately, I became friends with the owners of one of those beautiful Victorians and I must admit when the first invitation came about four years ago, I felt vindicated. Apparently we behaved because we have received an invitation every year thereafter and for every subsequent party my husband would park the car in an alley space just across the street from their house and with much purpose and swift direction I would cut right across the ambling crowd on Vine Street, hostess gift in hand, and right up those stairs. For the entire evening I would park myself next to the homemade candy and meatballs and occasionally, from the second story balcony, check out all those poor folks having to press their way through the crowd.
This year, however, due to my newfound vocation as your trusty local reporter, I found myself “having to” make my way down Vine Street to cover my list of photo ops: Ebenezer Scrooge, Santa and Mrs. Claus, the Snow King and Snow Queen, Santa’s hotline, you know, the usual suspects. Admittedly I was a little excited to see Scrooge as I had heard about his antics for years but just couldn’t muster up the wherewithal to go out looking for him.
Well I found him (albeit not the same Scrooge that has been jeering at the children for the past 29 years due to some medical issues and apparently a very touchy subject for all those involved, but that’s another story), everyone else on the list and so much more.
I found a church group making cotton candy, covered head-to-toe in pink sugar fluff, graciously handing out wispy clouds to a line of people that stretched out for at least an entire block.
There were carolers and characters and even a barber shop quartet. There was free hot cider at “the marketplace” right next to Mary and Joseph’s stall with three kings, shepherds and an angel fawning over baby Jesus. A couple of shepherds nearby corralled goats as five rows deep of children pressed their way in to get a closer look.
Yes, the streets were packed and yes the lines were long. But it forced one to walk slowly and take it all in: the sparkling lights, families bumping into each other and exchanging holiday greetings, and those private parties that were never meant to be a place to hide but merely a stopover while enjoying the fabulous promenade. As I walked through the crowd checking images and making sure all was captured, I realized my “Vine Street PTSD” was gone and I could have stayed out there all night.