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November 29, 2013

RONN MOTT: Collett Park Christmas Walk always a special event

TERRE HAUTE — Since I live right across the street from Collett Park, I enjoy very much this particular neighborhood. And since I have walked around it a few times, I’m familiar with the 0.8 of a mile it takes to walk around the park. The Christmas Walk is a walk around the neighborhood. There were approximately 15 homes involved and open to the public this year.

My wife and her sister-in-law, Patty Williams, had planned to do the “Walk,” but Patty had fallen ill and wasn’t sure if she would make the walk this year. I told the wife I would substitute if she wanted to go and Patty couldn’t go. Fortunately for me I did not have to and the ladies really enjoyed this year’s visits. The homes that were opened up for visitors had goodies for sale … candies, cookies, cakes, breads, all with a holiday theme. Some had things they had made for Christmas, crafts and such, and home-cooked and home-made at this time of the year always hits the spot.

The wife had hot apple cider and Patty enjoyed hot chocolate with a flourish of whipped cream. Something about both those drinks helped cheer up the Christmas season and, certainly, both are great when the weather is especially cold as it was last Saturday.

I was told I would get treats brought back to me and like a faithful dog guarding its home, treats were, indeed, brought back to me. One of the things was peanut brittle. Home-made peanut brittle tastes so much better than the kind you can buy at stores. There’s always a difference between store-bought and home-made candy this time of year. The peanut brittle was a shining example of that. Viva la difference!

 The ladies also brought me some divinity. I can’t remember having that since I was a little boy. My mother and Larry Shannon’s mother (he is one of my early childhood friends) would get together to make candy for Christmas. Some stood out in my mind more than others.

Their divinity was one of those. Basically, white, but they would also use food coloring for green, pinks, reds and such.

Mother always made chocolate fudge with nuts, chocolate fudge without nuts and a recipe that’s been lost in the shuffle of time, a really good-tasting concoction called Mexican creams. And the candy always ended up with a pecan on top of it.

All of my elder aunts had a specialty in a dessert area. I guess my mother’s was these delightful tasting home-made candies. The candy the girls brought back from their Collett Park Christmas Walk took me back to those early days that produced such good candy and gave the kitchen a wonderful, delightful scent for many days.

One of the treats for the two ladies was a white and gray cat that met them on the sidewalk leading up to one of the houses. This cat was very friendly, everyone wanted to pet it and did, and he, or she, had a conversation with everyone who walked up the sidewalk … meow, meow, meow. Like all animals, some cats love people and some don’t. This gray and white cutie really enjoyed its position of “greeter” about as well as any paid professional … meow, meow, meow.

The homes were beautiful, certainly well decorated for the season, and the crafts were just beautiful, too.

I would really have liked to have seen Collett Park in the last days of the 19th century when the park was very young … horse-drawn sleighs tinkling with bells as they were pulled through the snow, and fireplaces that gave out a soft haze as their chimneys released the smoke of the fires in their hearths.  

I have no way of knowing this for certain, but I would bet the people who first built around the park and began many of the things that are still being done would be really happy that many are still going on during the holiday season.

It’s today’s Collett Park neighbors that say in their own way, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

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