If you find yourself in Ricky Taff’s neighborhood this Christmas season, be sure to look him up.
Or should we say, look up.
Not that you’d have much choice. Indeed, you’d have to superglue your eyes shut to miss the corner house ablaze with lights at 329 2nd St. NE.
If Santa grants Taff’s wish, by Christmas he’ll have more than 20,000 of the shiners on high, said the inveterate lover of all things Christmas, and all of its gear, and tackle and trimmings.
“Santa, may not be real to us adults,” Taff said, “but the lights still bring happiness and joy, and it moves me. It just makes you feel like you’re a kid again. Just for a moment, it takes you outside of your world that may be stressful and painful and all these things, and it just gives you that little bit of happiness.
“It brings a smile and it brings a tear to my eye talking about it,” Taff added, “because it moves me so much. It tickles my heart and tickles my soul.”
No LED lights for Taff, only the old-fashioned ones people have been buying from the hardware store and stringing up for generations.
“Keep it simple,” Taff said.
Taff has been doing the brights for more than six years at his Auburn home, with assorted blow-ups and sundries plunked onto the lawn for a flourish. Over the years, however, he has moved to more of an on-house display of lights to avoid, he said, the acts of vandalism that have afflicted past efforts.
Don’t fret, there will still be a blow-up talking Santa and a Dave The Minion, among others.
But this year, Taff has made a few changes.
For one thing, he’s added computerized controls to the display, so that the lights dance in sync with music broadcast from 89.3 FM between 4 p.m. and 2 a.m., and 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. every day.
And for the first time Taff, until now just “that guy on the corner with all those lights,” is publicizing his efforts. He will work with the Auburn Food Bank to conduct a food drive, with drop-off boxes at the popular, year-round community garden he cultivates, providing extra food and vegetables for whoever needs them.
Taff has reached out to the Auburn Food Bank and to a retired member of the Muckleshoot Tribal Council to make the food drive happen, to support people who are in need at this time of year.
Taff, a Native American and a direct descendant of Geronimo, was born in California, but grew up in the Black Diamond-Renton area, where for 35 years, his parents have owned a roofing company. His father, he said, still has one of the tallest trees in Black Diamond, and it is visible from blocks away.
The small-town community ethos Taff marinated in as a boy still flows by the quart in every vein.
“When I was a kid, my family would go around and look at Christmas lights. We would call them ‘yikes’ because at the time my little sister couldn’t pronounce ‘lights.’ I have always enjoyed Christmas lights.”
Taff, who was stricken with cancer in 2003 and survived, is also the founder and owner of All Nations Medicine, his online business, which sells CBD products. He started the business to help promote longevity of life and healing.
His close call with cancer, he added, inspired him to became a healer, and he is thrilled to hear from the many people every year who find his lights lifting their spirits, bucking them up, both taking them back in time to happy memories and building new ones.
“It makes them smile for a little bit,” said Taff. “I have received cards and heard stories for the last 6 years thanking me for doing my lights. The stories are moving. A lot of people are depressed this time of year and my hope is to see them enjoy a bit of happiness. There are people who have moved from the city who come back to see the lights.
“I am going for 20,000 lights, but right now I am actually closer to 17,000,” Taff said. “We’re not done yet, we’re just burned out, pun intended.”