I have had a set of Christmas tree lights since before I was married almost 15 years ago. They were early generation motion lights with settings to make it seem like the lights are chasing each other or twinkling or fading or…, well, there were 6 settings and I couldn’t tell you everything they did. But I remember seeing them with a friend in a store window before lights that did much more than blink on and off were common.
They were in a square box and the lights were spiraled with a clear plastic window so the store could plug in a few sets without removing the packaging and the whole window came to life. I’m the kind of person who can be mesmerized with an old fashioned screen saver, where the design bounces around the computer display in an attempt to keep it from “freezing” with a picture burned into the screen. So I had to have a set of these lights. I didn’t even need to take them out of the package, I could just enjoy the colors spiraling around the plastic holder. In fact until I got married and my husband vetoed the project, I used to put them back into the spiral plastic holder one light at a time and enjoy the show even after the tree came down.
I guess the care I took with these lights paid off – they lasted far longer than any light set I’ve ever had before or since. But this was the year that they died. There was yellow and blue, dutifully chasing one another, but with sad blank spots where the red and green lights should have lit. When I lived in Hungary I dated a guy who could fix the wiring in these light sets, but, alas, unsure of how our electrical ability might create a fire hazard, we sadly retired the motion lights.
There was much joking. My father-in-law suggested the first year he saw my crazy lights that they were a bit nauseating on several of the settings – so as we put on two strands of the plain, non-blinking regular lights, we thought he might be better able to enjoy his Christmas dinner this year. I was dubious that even the two strands would be enough to reach the top of the tree, but they did. And they were spaced pretty well. My husband, son, and I finished the job and looked at the tree – surely, this was enough lights and we didn’t need to run to Target, right?
We paused about fifteen seconds before we all started gathering our things to head to the store – no, there were definitely not enough lights without my flickering, fading, fancy strand. To a person, the Beenes agreed, we needed more lights! And not just any lights. At first we thought we’d just get several more strands of regular lights. Then we spotted the “twinkling” ones – a few blinkers placed in among the steady lighted ones. Well, at least it would add a little action to our tree. I shared with my son how his Grandpap, my father, had loved to include blinking lights on our trees while I was growing up. I had never known a tree with just plain, solid lights. Every year, the twinkling made the tree feel like Christmas.
Then, just as I was about to leave the Christmas light section of the store I spotted them – motion lights, just a few boxes left on the bottom shelf. No more were they in a box displayed specially; new LED lights with fancy shapes and dripping blue light icicles got front and center staging. But sure enough, these had chasers and fades and twinkles and stepping up and just plain stepping – in fact not six, but fifteen settings to catch the attention of my Dad in heaven and to make Eric’s Dad a little nauseated on Christmas morning! They were perfect!
And sure enough – as I sit here watching the lights dance and sparkle across the tree, casting bright glowing reflections on the walls – it feels like Christmas.
We had a year once in our marriage where all we put on the tree were the lights. We had a two year old child and a new dog and it was all we could do to get that much up. And we loved that tree. My son said today that lights were what made it a Christmas tree, not just a tree in the living room. As I wait this year through Advent to celebrate the Light of the World, I give thanks for the lights of my world. And I’m happy that they dance.
What are some holiday decorations or traditions that are especially meaningful for you each year? Do they remind you of loved ones? If you use Christmas lights, do you like white or multi-colored lights? Solid or twinkling? How do these lights reflect your understanding of spiritual light in the world? Our family has special ornaments that help us share our memories each year. We also have a few that we can’t remember where they came from. How do you share memories with your family? Does everything have a memory attached, or is there room for things that are just pretty?
The holidays can be a difficult time for many people. I have found myself missing my parents more this year than any other year since their deaths. If you find yourself feeling more than a little blue, consider whether you might need to speak with a professional counselor. If you just want someone to walk with you through this time, a spiritual director might be able to help. The Divine is there, even in the hard times. You can contact me at Openings: Let the Spirit In if you have questions about how a spiritual director might help.