It's my first Christmas season away from my childhood home and I've spent it dog-sitting in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Austin, TX. The long dog walks through this neighborhood in the freezing temperatures have made me deeply nostalgic. The quirky houses and decorations evoke a wistfulness in me that I attribute to growing pains. Growing up is something that I'm finding increasingly hard to stomach. I realized that I'm only blocks from one of my most treasured Christmas pastimes. I drove around looking for the "hippie lights" that my grandma would take us to see every year; my four cousins and whoever else could tag along, riding down 38th street in a stretch limousine to look at the houses, yards, street signs, electric posts decked out in lights. It was the stuff of childhood dreams. Only one house is left in all of it's neon glory, covered in lights with a sock monkey nativity scene, just like I remember it. The rest of the houses are now being rented out. The tenants, surely not quite knowing the splendor of hippie lights past, put up their own decorations.
My first Christmas away from home in Hyde Park also feels like every Christmas of my childhood. But now I'm hunting for Christmas lights alone in my station wagon instead of a limo with my dearest. And it's still good. These images are of houses decorated for Christmas that simultaneously make me feel joyfully sentimental and heart-achingly nostalgic for an Austin that is fleeting with my childhood.