A wretched aspect to the end of the December holidays, especially Christmas, is how the new year might start with neighborhood fireworks, but the bright & beautiful lights that sparkle our houses & properties are dimmed & darkened – – just when we need them most! How blessed we are here at Squirrel Haven that our house is bedecked in Christmas lights year ’round! Would that everyone – especially older, elderly people who, more than their youngers, especially crave light – kept them blazing all year.
January & February’s dim dark days are perked up by the miniature white lights that run along the upper reaches of our living room’s inner wall, while The Retreat still has tiny white lights at the window & my big Christina Orthwein “For peace has in it confidence in the Lord” bowl is filled with itty bitty colored lights, reflected in silver-gold-blue balls.
Christmas is past, but our lives remain lit with its lights & a sense of its love.
We were inspired to leave the holiday lights blazing by Mom, going on twenty years ago. Mom loved to sit in her big chair in the living room, the one that Brenda always describes as “being in the Stickley style,” a massive chair with wide wooden arms perfect for writing on or resting your arms & settling back, the one that Jada, mama of the kitties, now claims as her own. It gave Mom a great view of the big bay window, out to the street, our neighborhood, the world. And, at Christmas, she sat right across from the tree.
While insisting on a freshly cut Christmas tree now horrifies me, it was firmly rooted in my family traditions. Because the Murphy tree decorations were so different from the Lockhart collection, we put up two different trees – a wondrous colored, blinking lights with a flashing star atop a fake tree in the den, with the living room playing host to the my traditional tree, festooned with tiny white clear lights & topped with a paper angel Ian had made in elementary school. It took us almost ten years to combine the two into one Murphart tree, in the living room, its place of honor catty corner to Mom’s chair.
For some long-forgotten reason, we decided to use the fake tree in 2000 – and our lives changed. By then, Mom was 89 & keeping herself pretty confined to the house in the cold winter months. That year, as I went to take down the decorations, the lights, she sighed & got a sort of distant look.
Now, my mother was NOT raised to ask for something directly. “If you’re anywhere near the pharmacy, would you pick up...” is still used with loving humor by both John & myself. AND she was, by nature, non-verbal. The result is that I was trained from babyhood to pick up on sighs or shrugs or slight shifts as signs of what she wanted.
By 2000, John (who went nuts when I tried to “read” him) had shown me the errors of those ways, so instead of doing my best to interpret what Mom wanted, I did something radical for a Reynolds-Lockhart – – I asked. “Mom, do you NOT want me to take the decorations & the tree down?”
I will always remember the wistful look in her eyes & the longing tone in her voice when she answered, “Well, it does make a lovely light.”
And up it stayed. That year, Gretchen & Andrew gave us tiny pink lights that his brother-in-law had purchased by mistaken & had no use for – – the Christmas tree became a Valentine tree, with hearts & Valentines replacing the angels bells stars. After that, we decorated it with faux flowers, as a Welcome Spring tree – Brenda surprised & delighted us when she bought every stuffed rabbit at the Bryn Athyn Thrift Shop & created a bunny extravaganza.
The Spring Tree gave way to Summer – in May, we put a notice in our community newsletter, the Bryn Athyn Post, inviting anyone & everyone to send a postcard from their vacation to The Summer Tree, which was soon filled with their travels.
Mom especially loved the Summer Tree, so it stayed put until early December, when it was time again for the holly & the ivy to take pride of place. Throughout the year, in biting cold & sweltering heat, Mom had her lovely light to comfort & sustain her. It mattered, keeping that tree blazing away throughout the year. I wish that everyone would do as we do, inspired by Mom, & keep them glowing year ’round.
A closing note about The Tree – after Mom took a fall in Virginia, came back to PA for rehab that turned into a return home for a glorious final week, the tree continued to work its magic. From where she was confined in her room in her bed, she could look to the right & down into the living room, could see the lights blazing away – as Mom described it, “The best night light ever!”
When we had Mom’s memorial celebration on October 14, almost a month to the day after she slipped from us, it was front & center at the bash she’d requested following her tribute, filled from the tip top to the lowest branches with the stuffed animals that were always such a part of her – and of our – life, with place of honor given to Springerly, the large white rabbit who played a key role in her life over those last six weeks, first at INOVA/Alexandria, then at St. Mary’s & finally at home.
Hooray for Mom’s beloved holiday lights sparkling her way to the very end!