Have you ever thought much about the lights on your Christmas tree? Who makes them, or the time it takes to produce them? From the old fashioned, large painted light bulbs, to bubble lights, and the new LEDs, they brighten up your home and heart at Christmas.
I’ve seen a lot of different kinds through the years. One particular year the lights at Christmas made a lot of difference. It was the day after Thanksgiving in the Shaunessy household, and everyone was waiting on Ben to bring home the tree.
Like always, when he stopped to pick up a tree, he bought new strings of lights. One of the few luxuries Ben allowed himself, was new lights every Christmas. As a kid, it had been his job to untangle the lights, and replace the bulbs that somehow go out between January and December, all while sitting in a box. When he was thirty, he couldn’t handle it anymore.
He told Camille that even if it cost them money, he wasn’t untangling lights that year. So, aggravation had borrowed from necessity, to invent a tradition. Some fun had crept into it over time, as he began buying a different set of lights each year.
The family took turns guessing what type of lights Dad, and now Granddad, would bring home each year. This year, he had a surprise. Each Christmas bulb, was an LED cased in small metal strips, shaped like old fashioned street lamps, the kind you see on Christmas cards.
Ben had found them on a website last Christmas, and he knew they would be his next light purchase. He unveiled them with a flourish, and Camille brought out the special ornaments she had bought when he let her in on the secret. It was a truly beautiful tree, shimmering in light.
The family basked in the bright glow of it, and the warm smiles on the couple’s faces. Ben built a fire in the fireplace, and the family decorated it together.
That night they watched it for hours. They turned all the other lights off, except for the tree and the natural light from the fireplace. It crackled as the embers glowed, the tree glistened, and Ben and Camille beamed happily.
The season hurried along. Cookies were baked, presents were bought, and candy was boiled. A fun, memorable holiday season, all leading up to the warmth and pageantry of Christmas. It was as perfect a year as Ben could remember, right up until December 23.
There had been a snow the first week of the month, but hadn’t lasted but a couple of days. All three weathermen predicted a White Christmas, and everyone believed them. Just up to the first rumbling of thunder, and the downpour of rain two days before Christmas.
The storm didn’t let up. It was that cold kind of rain, that would soak, and chill you, until your bones were sore. Camille wasn’t too happy at breakfast that morning. Ben tried to reassure her.
“It’s only rain honey. We can close the blinds and pretend it’s a white Christmas after all.” She had her doubts at breakfast, and was depressed bedtime that night.
Ben’s bride managed to hide her dissatisfaction the next day when the kids, and grandkids showed up. She took the soaked coats as Ben helped with the luggage. Soon, she lost her cares in her family’s laughter.
By supper, Camille was happily ignoring the storm. Afterwards everyone gathered in the living room giggling, and anticipating Christmas Day. Ben let out a sigh of relief, knowing Camille would be ok.
That of course, was when the power went out. Camille and the grandkids instantly looked to Ben to fix it all. The parents, a little embarrassed to admit they were hoping Dad had an answer, peeked at him sideways.
“It’s okay guys, it’ll probably come back on soon.” He had them believing what he hoped to be true, until Elene, the oldest grandchild, checked her smartphone. “They’re saying a transformer is down, and probably won’t be fixed til the day after Christmas.”
This unintended sabotage by the child he held at a day old didn’t help. Ben made a mental note to suggest she not volunteer ‘helpful’ information at inopportune moments in the future. In the meantime, he had a momentary stroke of genius, board games.
For the next two hours, dice were rolled, top hats and race cars moved, and deeds were bought and sold. Ships were sunk, numbered colors were reversed, and revolvers were used in the conservatory. All by the light of a fire.
Through it all he couldn’t help but notice the way the light bounced off both the tree and Camille’s beautiful face. Blankets and pillows replaced the games as everyone settled down to sleep in the warmest place in the House. Drake and Miles, their first and second born, took turns stoking the fire through the night.
Camille put on a brave face Christmas morning, as they used the fireplace to cook bacon, eggs, and biscuits with the old camping skillet and Dutch oven. By noon, her face started to fall, it was time to cook the biggest meal of her year, and it wasn’t going to happen.
She wasn’t even sure if anything in the refrigerator would make it through the power outage. Ben didn’t make the mistake of trying to downplay it, but he couldn’t let it ruin Christmas. Instead of trying to be the hero himself, he decided to make Camille the one who rescued Christmas.
“Honey, if anyone can salvage Christmas, it’s you. You’re the best cook I know, always have been. Plus, if you look at it one way, this is sort of a challenge. A lot of people can be a great cook with all the kitchen stuff nowadays. If you could pull it off with no electricity, the family would talk about it for years to come.”
Personally, Ben didn’t care if they ate peanut butter and banana sandwiches for Christmas, but he knew this was important to Camille. She rolled up her sleeves and went to work. That woman marched towards the pantry like Schwarzkopf heading towards Kuwait.
Four hours later, it was finished. An while it was not your typical Christmas fare, it was good. Ben wasn’t sure exactly how, but Camille had accomplished it,
She used bouillon cubes and onions to make a French onion soup. There was corn bread and baked potatoes. The main savory dish were individual meat pies using of all things, beef jerky and canned vegetables. For desert, apple cinnamon bread from the Dutch oven.
After dinner, gifts were opened, and for once no one had to carry out trash bags full of wrapping paper. The fireplace made a perfect holiday incinerator for the used bits of paper and ribbons. Ben led a prayer, as he did every Christmas.
“Dear Lord, we’d like to thank you for this food, our home, our family, and friends. This isn’t exactly the way we had it planned, but I imagine Joseph had similar thoughts. Either way, You had it worked out then, just like You did this Christmas.”
The funny thing is Lord, I was so excited about those LED’s, I didn’t even realize how important this old fireplace would be this year. You always surprise me, in a good way Lord. Thank You for giving us an unforgettable Christmas this year.”
They all said Amen, and hugged the one closest to them. Elene, who had been so out of sync with her previous announcement, was right on track with this one. “You know Grandpa, you might say we had the LEDs after all.”
Puzzled faces told her to continue. “I mean it’s Christmas, and we have Love, Each Other, and a Dramatically, Dreamy Christmas … Christmas LEDs!” Everyone laughed.
An, as if that had been the point of it all, that’s when the power came back on. Quickly they all turned everything off besides the fireplace and the tree. The family spent the rest of Christmas happily in love’s light. Christmas Light May hang on your tree, but the real thing, should burn brightly in our hearts, Merry Christmas.