“Look at lights! Look at lights!”
She was too young for much of a vocabulary, but her exuberance transcended the need for words. Our niece Hannah, now a high school senior busily playing the role of Mrs. Banks in “Mary Poppins,” writing a research paper on Maya Angelou, and preparing to go off to college next year, came alive at the festive lights of Christmas even from her very first year. By her second year, she was directing family traffic, ushering us all into the largest available SUV to ride back and forth through the neighborhoods on cold December evenings to indulge her favorite holiday pastime—looking at lights.
The bigger and brighter they got, the less she could contain her enthusiasm. And in her absolute innocence and ability to be so fully charmed by something so simple, we could not contain our gratitude.
As I place tiny bulbs inside the Dickens Village left to me by Hannah’s grandmother and remember the last time Grand Peggy and I put the village out together, as I arrange just so on the mantle the vintage Mr. and Mrs. Santa dolls which were my mama’s, I consider the importance of light in what is often called the Season of Lights.
I remember two years ago when we took Hannah and her younger sister Emma to New York City for the first time at Christmas. We got out of the car at the W Hotel in Times Square. Emma looked up at the Manhattan skyline, and her mama swears she was literally shaking with excitement. We got onto the hotel elevator and the song “She Wore Blue Velvet” began to play. It might not have meant much to others, but to us it was a sign Grand Peggy was there, all the way from heaven, because blue was her signature color. One highlight of that trip was when Chris literally dragged Emma, clasping her hand too tightly if I know his safety protocols, through the midtown throng, running late for the Radio City Rockettes. They exhaled and settled back into their seats about 30 seconds before the lights dimmed and the magic began.
I remember the candle-like bulbs which Mama used to place in the windows of our little cottage on the Dykes Chapel Road, a flickering symbol of yuletide welcome to a teenager coming in from a night on the town or a lonely neighbor who needed a slice of homemade pound cake and a bit of conversation. I remember the flames from Daddy’s warm fire darting in and out over the logs, creating a smoldering orange-red bed of embers as the logs burned down.
And, yes, I remember the light that started it all, the Star of Bethlehem which lighted the path now followed by so many. What an awesome responsibility for one star out of millions. Despite wars and recessions, terrorism and bigotry, illness and homelessness and hunger, we only need to look into the faces of babes who simply want to “look at lights” to know the message of that star is still resounding.
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