The bright lights of Manhattan

Dateline: Tue 19 Dec 2006

Even tho the mailing address says Reelsville ("Where?"), I live in Manhattan. That's a tiny spot in west central Indiana in Putnam County (some of the natives call it Put-mun).

Manhattan, with a dozen or so homes, is laid out on two county roads that drain off south of U.S. 40, the old National Road. For some reason, Manhattan used to be called "Cats." Don't ask me why. But I am confident there's a reason, and no doubt, cats were involved.

Residences in Manhattan, Ind., are modest: small, mostly well-kept, some ramshackle, but typically Hoosier-country in style. If somebody puts a tire in the yard, for geraniums or just as an afterthought, there it will invariably stay. Landscaping -- with the exception of one neighbor's extravagant iron beds laid with blooming petunias in the summer, and Baby Jesus in the winter -- is non-existent.

All that said, I'd wager there is no place in Indiana any prettier than Manhattan this time of year. Residents take great care in stringing up glitter on their porches and off their roofs. The displays are not extravagant but they are lovely: twinkling lights in the gloom, small signals of hope, joyfulness pure and simple for its own sake.

Wish you could all see it, and wishing everybody a very Merry Christmas a little early and a Happy Hannukah a little late.

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