This is indeed a beautiful season. I love the lights on people’s houses and in their yards. People pull out their old familiar Christmas things, candlesticks, tree ornaments and nutcracker figures, and put them up around the house. They add a few new things that will be there way out in the future. The old candy dish from Grandmother, the new stocking for the new grandchild, they all contribute to our pleasure in the old memories and feelings.
This season seems bright in memories going back, in my case, for decades, odd because the sun isn’t in those memories. It’s those lights. It’s the lights in the windows of my neighbor’s house. It’s the wreath with the LEDs at the entrance to the apartment building, and those lights wrapping the tree trunks and up into the branches. It’s the lights hanging over the neighborhood market street. The sun sets early, and there is plenty of time to memorize this year’s lights, and to relive the memories they evoke.
I remember one Christmas Eve, I was maybe 10, in the choirloft at St. Joseph’s, getting ready to sing something I can’t remember, and looking out over the Church, softly lit, filled with candles and wreathed in pine, warm against the cold night, before turning my eyes back to the leader. Layered against that is a Christmas in Sinop, Turkey, in the non-denominational chapel on the Post, a few decorations, but a small group of people at midnight, listening to Father Joe read the old words. Layered against that, I stand behind the organ looking at the church, at the pine wreaths, the candles and the people lifting their tapers as we sing Silent Night. This year, my granddaughter watched that for the first time.
As we grow older, every year brings physical and mental changes. Some are positive, we are stronger, taller, wiser, more experienced; others less so. Not every Christmas is an unmitigated delight. But one thing goes forward, the layers of memory that add up to a rich life.