Mother to daughter: Lantern Parade inspires reflections


My mother, Carolyn Thomas, a resident of Jamaica Plain for more than 23 years now (a lifetime for me, since my family moved to Alveston Street from Beacon Hill two weeks before I was born) goes nuts (in a good way, I swear) for the annual Jamaica Plain Lantern Parade.

Sponsored by Spontaneous Celebrations, the parade was started in 1984, one year before I was born, and Mom has loved to go to it for as long as I can remember. For over a decade, she convinced my siblings and me to make lanterns—cutting open used 2-liter soda bottles and gluing paper in what can only be interpreted loosely as “art.” Also, being a Girl Scout leader for over a decade, she had her girls make lanterns and take their families to the Lantern Parade.

This year, she made her own lantern. Not being one to not share, she wrote me an e-mail, which I would like to share with others:

“Saturday’s parade was postponed until tonight due to rain—prospective rain, as the clouds don’t disgorge until after midnight, and the night, while cloudy, is not inclement.

“So it is Sunday. There are only seven stars above the pond due to heavy clouds, and the water, where not black in the shadow of the trees, is pewter instead of silver. It’s warm—maybe mid-60s just after 7 p.m., and the people are not coherent. There are strands of lights moving clockwise and counterclockwise with gaps in the movement and odd clots along the perimeter. The lights bob slightly from across the water, clearly threading past each other. Two sets of drummers are in play—one by the boat launch and one by the feed to the lower ponds. They are not coherent but echoing—almost complementary. Almost a third of the circuit is too bright. The street lights along the walkway below the Jamaicaway make the lanterns into flecks or shards beneath the street lamps, and reflections in the water are lost until the walkers turn to follow the circuit away from the road. It is a mixed bag as always—parents with kids, people with glow strips around their necks, couples with lanterns that go out and dog walkers who cruise past all of us. Kids go down to throw stones into the water, and walkers discuss friends, coworkers, lovers and parents in the possibly discriminate dark.

“I walk and listen and silently curse the camera which will not get the reflections in the pond right. In less than an hour I’m turning for home, walking down Eliot Street with my lantern still lit, following other bobbing lights in the shadows between the street lamps. People get into their cars, and kids blow out their candles.

“The lanterns are still beautiful, still very quiet and serene and mostly a JP thing.” —Mom

The writer still lives in Jamaica Plain.

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