This Little Light of Mine

Photo by Jonathan Meyer on

I’ve been amazed at how quickly Christmas decorations began to appear this year. I have a mid November birthday that has always been the start of the holiday season for me, but up until recently fall decor was still very dominant from that time until the day after Thanksgiving. Now the lights seemed to go up as soon as Halloween was over. There is a  Christmas wreath on the door of the house across the street and pumpkins and colorful leaves on another next door. It is as though we can’t quite decide when is the best time for transitioning from one celebratory season to another. 

I’m a rather linear person who has a routine that I have faithfully followed for years. On the first day of September I deck my home with fall colors. When October arrives I bring out the ghosts and goblins and jack o lanterns, but promptly store them away the day after Halloween. I leave generic pumpkins in the decor and add a pilgrim or two to the mantle. All of it stays in place until the day after Thanksgiving when I begin to transform the house into a winter wonderland. 

It takes me days upon days to do all of the Christmas decorating. I have to make may trips up and down the ladder to my attic to pull out dusty boxes of the treasures I have collected over the years. I used to have the energy to just get it all down in one very long day, but my knees and hips and bones complain when I try such things now. I have learned to be more patient and do a bit here and a bit there until everything is in place. 

I have to admit that I like seeing the Christmas decorations that arrive in November. I’m quite open minded about letting each family do its own thing. I’d be okay with starting in October if that’s what somebody wanted to do. I actually find if fun to watch the transformation of my neighborhood each year. The decorations and their timing tell me so much about how happy my neighbors seem to be. I laugh at the perfection of some and the haphazard look of others. 

What impresses me the most about all of it is that we humans just keep ploughing on in both good times and bad. Somehow when Christmas comes all of the troubles we have had melt away in the awesome realization that we are all mostly good and loving people just trying to do our best with whatever we have. We stop from the frenzy of the year to be with family and friends. We decorate to demonstrate our joy. Those lights in the windows or in the yard bring smiles.

I remember as a child riding with my family to see the lights of Christmas. We’d choose a neighborhood and go up and down the streets oohing and aching at the displays. There was a place near Wayside and Lawndale streets that had one of my favorite scenes. It was a life sized manger from which the sound of Silent Night echoed into the air. My mother would always stop the car and just sit in front of the house until we had heard the full song and then we would move on. It was an almost sacred yearly ritual for me. I always felt that Christmas had finally come when we saw that display. Sadly it one day went away and I was devastated wondering what had happened to the people who had so faithfully provided it for us for so many years.

When I was a young mom the displays in Glenbrook Valley were always awesome. At one home Santa sat in a huge chair near the curb handing candy canes to the children who came to see him. My little girls were always so delighted when they saw the jolly old man. It was a destination that we never failed to visit each December until it too was no more.

Of late we have enjoyed the spectacular views in River Oaks where people come from all over the city to see the incredible sights. There are even horse drawn carriages that ferry folks from street to street. Some park their cars and walk around taking photos of themselves in front of the extravaganzas. When we go we always follow up the drive with milkshakes or hot cocoa just as we did when we were young.

Our own yard is a hodgepodge of things that we have collected over the years. It’s a bit on the tacky side, but the parents of young children tell us that it is a favorite among the little ones. We have a wooden Christmas tree lit up with colored lights. For fun we have a Grinch appearing to be stealing the presents and strings of lights from the tree. At the corner of the house we post a snowman that is so old I can’t believe that he still lights up each year. We put lights around the flowerbeds and along the sidewalk and line the fence on the side with icicle lights. We’ve never won an award for the best display, but I feel good about what we’ve done. Everything in that yard means something to us.

Every year we wonder if we will have the energy to do our usual thing, but when the time comes we pull the boxes out of the attic and make quick work of the process even as our knees complain a bit about our efforts. When it’s all done it really does feel like Christmas and leaves us with time and determination to remember that Christmas is really about love. 

That baby born in a manger would grow up to teach us all how we should live. We don’t always remember his message, but the annual celebration of his birth sets us back on track. It’s not the gifts or even all of the lights that make the holiday season special. It’s all about our brotherhood and sisterhood in the world. 

As we enter the Christmas season I think of the people whose nations are at war. I hope that my lights shine for them for anyone who is suffering anywhere on this earth. I’ll be putting them on display soon and thinking of how I might do my part to create more peace on earth by letting my little lights shine. It’s good to resolve once again to be our best.