EVERETT — Brooks Smothers and his two young children spent part of Christmas Eve placing a row of white paper bags along the sidewalk outside their Rucker Avenue home, built in 1910.
Other neighbors had already done the same, with a straight line of bags on both sides of the 1200 block and leading up to the doorstep of every house.
At 5 p.m., they planned to light candles in each of the white sacks, making what are called luminaries. Brooks Smothers’ wife, Susy Smothers, came up with the idea. She grew up with the tradition in her neighborhood outside of Philadelphia.
“We figured since we are home to begin with, why not go all out,” she said. “Maybe, you know, this is a little bit of light and cheer in a hard time. All my family is back east, so we haven’t seen them in a year which is kind of hard.”
This is the first year they’ve set up the luminaries here.
Brooks Smothers, 46, grew up in Snohomish County and considers Arlington his hometown. After graduating from college, he moved to Seattle and got a job in Redmond. The commute was awful, he said.
Since then, he has moved all over the place. He lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and a few years later moved to San Francisco where he and Susy met. They later moved to Southern California, then back to Pennsylvania.
Now Everett is home.
“I have seen 48 of the 50 states,” Brooks Smothers said. “Washington is stunning in comparison. Nowhere else does the mountains meet the ocean.”
They’ve been in the city for a decade, but have lived in the Rucker Avenue home for about six years.
Others have lived on the block for 40 years, including Janet and Bill Loesche. They live two houses away from the Smothers.
The Loesches moved in when both were in their early 20s, soon after they were married. Neighbors have basically become family — the godparents to their daughters, now 35 and 37, live across the street.
“It’s just been a gift to live here,” Janet Loesche said. “Magical is just about the only way to describe it.”
She hopes the luminaries unify the neighbors after a difficult year. Brooks Smothers feels the pandemic has brought them all even closer. They’ve been there for one another.
Brooks and Susy Smothers have a 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. She works as a counselor at a local middle school. He is a marketing consultant and one half of Upper Left Records, a pop-up record shop that travels around Everett.
He hoped the Christmas Eve lights would bring joy to the neighborhood.
“We want to bring light to the darkness,” he said. “Darkness from a winter in the Pacific Northwest, with the sun setting at 4:30, then the darkness that has surrounded all of 2020 with COVID, not seeing friends and family. We just wanted to do something to spread warmth and holiday cheer.”
On Thursday, he and his children set up the paper bags as passersby walked down the street. One woman who drove by stopped to ask what they were doing.
Brooks Smothers told her to come back in about an hour.
“It will be a thing of beauty,” he said.