Lighting up Christmas.

Christmas gift suggestions:

To your enemy, forgiveness.             To an opponent, tolerance.              To a friend, your heart.                     To a customer, service.                    To all, charity.                                   To a child, a good example.              To yourself, respect.                           ~ Oren Arnold

To your neighbor, many lights. ~ Pat

Pictured here is the home of my across-the-street neighbors.  The best I can tell, they add a little something each year.  My decorating philosophy tends toward less is more when it comes to outdoors where the neighbors have to look at it whether they want to or not.  Well, that was my theory before we lived near a large family who had three houses in a row on the street we traveled to get up the mountain and home.  They would work most of Thanksgiving week and before, to wire the houses and yards.  On Thanksgiving night all lights were on and continued to light up the night for a month, ending with Christmas Day. December 26 they started to pack up all the lights and Santas and mangers until the next year.  These kindly neighbors, like my current ones, purchased a little something new to add to the display each year.

One year, in the summer, the elderly patriarch of the family learned he had cancer and so he took his own life; he hanged himself in the family’s barn.  That year his survivors, understandably, didn’t have much heart for decorating and word went out that there might be no lights in the three family yards.  I remember feeling a little ache of disappointment.  I wouldn’t be able to show the children when they came up for Thanksgiving.   The yards were visible from Interstate 40 and I thought about all the weary travelers who wouldn’t get to ooh and aah over the glorious display of lights and enthusiasm as they made their way home or to Grandma’s house or wherever they were going.  And the truckers.  I wondered how many truckers would miss them, having seen them for many years as they carried their cargo to points unknown.  A little something (okay, a big something) would feel all wrong about the holidays that year.

I learned later that there were quite a few neighbors who felt the same way I did.  Those angel-neighbors pitched in and helped to wire’em up.  I have always regretted that I missed out on that amazing venture.  I did make sure the neighbors knew how much their generosity meant to my family.  And to countless others who chanced to drive by or those who made a special trip from one of the nearby towns just to admire the remarkable work of art, given with love, to a rural community.

May we all give and receive that kind love and light this holiday season.

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The angels are back.

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ~  Norman Vincent Peale

Around this time last year, I wrote a post showing a photograph of a snowflake against a cloudless azure sky.  I took this angel photo in the same park this year.  (Click on photo to see angel more clearly.) In fact, the street lamps alternately display angels and snowflakes.  In last year’s post I commented on the incongruity of the snowflake against an amazingly bright Duke-blue sky.  I went from incongruities to oxymorons (aka oxymora) and the race was on.  I’m feeling a bit less playful as I sit down to write today; in fact, I’m downright pensive.  We’ll see where this angel takes me.

angel, a definition:  a typical benevolent celestial being that acts as an intermediary between heaven and earth, especially in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Zoroastrianism.

Here you see the angel of my childhood.  She certainly looks benevolent and celestial, doesn’t she?  When I was a youngster, and even through my teens, this picture resided on the wall beside my bed.  Living in the mountains meant we had our share of rickety little foot bridges similar to the one in the picture.  I imagined this was my brother trying to make his way across the bridge and the girl was our older sister helping him along, which she would have done with great good nature.  Of course they couldn’t see her, but the guardian angel was there to help them both across.  Sweet story.  Reassuring to a little girl who lived in a less than adequate home with less than competent parents.  (They did love us, though, I’ll give them that.)

Alas, the sweet story went awry.  Not his sisters, not his momma, not even an ethereal being sent from above could save that little boy from himself and his demons.  He died of a drug and alcohol overdose at the age of sixty-one.  Like father, like son.  He spent his entire life wanting and trying to do something, anything better than our dad.  He finally succeeded.  He out-lived him by about a year.

Ahhh, but “hope springs eternal in the human breast.”  (Alexander Pope said that.)  And so we bring out the angels at Christmastime and we burden them with our hopes and wishes.  We charge them with keeping us safe.  We put one on the tiptop of the Christmas tree.  What’s she supposed to do up there anyway?  Guard the tree?  If we’re lucky, we have an image of one in a difficult childhood who helps us through all manner of hard times.  Who/What are these ubiquitous presences?  I have a theory but first I’d love to know what you think.  Care to comment?