It's Not About the Lights

Recently, on a Saturday night, my husband had an idea. He read online about a home here on the Treasure Coast that boasts 700,000 lights in their outdoor Christmas display. Apparently, the couple who own this mansion has been decorating the outside of their home for years, skipping only 2017 when much of the vegetation on the property was damaged by Hurricane Irma.

I’ve seen those shows on tv where homeowners compete against one another with incredible displays of Christmas decor. Thor (the Hubs) mentioned the estimated light count, and I expected to see something akin to what I had seen on those shows. However, I was wrong. This display was absolutely nothing like that.

We weren’t exactly sure where the home was located, but quickly realized we were on the right track when traffic slowed to a crawl. Thor saw the lights first. The glow was unmistakable. But something surprised us. There were so many cars pulling off onto the shoulder, parking whereever they could, and with people walking towards the mansion.

I vaguely remembered driving past the residence. Highway A1A is the only way to go North and South on the barrier island so people have to drive by it all the time. Because it sits behind a concrete wall and gate, I’ve only ever gotten a sense of it. I never really saw it until that night.

I felt funny parking our car off on the shoulder along with hundreds of other cars, but Thor was certain that he read online that the gates were open to the public.

“A house on the beach, of this magnitude, open to everyone?” I asked, skeptical about what people write on social media.

“Trust me,” Thor said. “We’re going to have a great adventure.”

We had to park fairly far away because of the multitude of cars and lack of parking space. I just knew the neighbors were likely beside themselves at the invasion from the public and the awful traffic in front of their homes. Nevertheless, off we went, hand in hand, drawing closer to the lights.

I imagined that I would see pretty lights. I expected a lot of lights. What I hadn’t prepared myself for was the overwhelming feeling of goodness and generosity as we walked through the gates onto the property. That’s the only way I can explain it. These past two years have been tragic, difficult, frightening, unnerving…I don’t have to tell you that, do I? The whole world has lived through a terrible time. That very day, in fact, I felt out of sorts. Let’s face it, we’re all trying to do the best we can, but the world isn’t “back to normal” and as a society we’re facing ugliness and stressors beyond “just” a global pandemic — not to mention horrific natural disasters. But in that moment, as we approached the mansion, the ugliness and scariness fell away and I felt enveloped light.

You might consider attributing my experience to my sensibilities. I am, after all, a creative person with a very active imagination. However, Thor is a pragmatist through and through. Where my head is always “in the clouds,” as they say, he is a very present and logical person, and even he admitted to feeling an overwhelming benevolence.

Never since childhood has a place felt… well… magical.

The lights are pretty and there’s a lot of them. But lights are lights and that wasn’t what touched me.

The mansion boasts over 50,000 square feet. It’s mere steps from the Atlantic ocean, separated by only the dune line. It’s spectacular, no doubt. But big mansions on Florida’s east coast are not uncommon. It was a moonlit night on the beach with the sound of crashing waves and the salty smell of the ocean permeating the air. That’s nothing new to Thor or me. We both grew up right here, and have spent plenty of days and nights on the shore.

What I think touched me was the owners’ generosity. There were people all over the property, walking everywhere. There were young families, old couples, single people, teenagers, all ethnicities, all skin colors, and, I’m sure, different political beliefs — everyone was walking around in awe. We didn’t see one argument. We didn’t see anyone pushing. There was no need to. Though there were likely thousands of people there, the property is so expansive, you couldn’t come within six feet of another person unless you specifically meant to. Can you imagine, large grounds or not, having people you don’t know, walking all around the outside of your home? There was no visible security. No one was prevented from walking on the grass or walking up and down any outside stairways. Yet, the crowd was respectful and simply joyful. There wasn’t Christmas music playing, so we can’t blame the collective positive mood on carefully selected tunes. Instead, it was as if we had walked into a Hallmark Christmas movie with the inevitable scene of the town gathered together. For just a little while, everything was right with the world.

Another thing that hit me was that this estate was very similar to the Worthington Mansion. In case you don’t know, the Worthington Mansion is a fictional home that I wrote about in A Beach, A Bichon Frise, and A Body. If you read the book, you know there’s a scene featuring a moonlit night on the seashore. I felt like that scene was recreated right before my eyes. I told Thor that it felt like the actual Worthington property had materialized and we were walking on the grounds.

Our experience was not unique. I heard a man in the crowd tell a woman walking by that she can take all the pictures she wants, but when she looks at them later, she’ll think that the pictures don’t do the property justice. He’s right. I took a lot of pictures with my phone that I’m sharing with you here below. I hope you like them. However, I also hope that if you ever have the chance to visit this home at Christmas for yourself, that you’ll do so. It’s completely free and more than worth the time.

I did a little research on the property’s owners. The residence belongs to Robert and Elsa Eustace. I don’t know them, of course. But based on that evening, here’s what I can surmise about them (1) They must really love Christmas. (2) They must really love people. Think of the inconvenience, the invasion of their privacy, and the liability in this litigious society. Yet, they still chose to open their doors to the public. I am moved by their generosity. There are still good people in this world.

Click to Enlarge the Pictures