The lights went out, but everything was not dark.
Late on a cold winter evening, together, we placed at least 600 white lights upon our Martha Stewart tree, arranging them to a twinkling perfection. We were behind in preparations, but a least now on the path to celebrate. The following morning, eager to start the Christmas holiday, I plugged in the strands and found only a dozen still gleaming. I grumbled. The occurrence mulling around in my mind got me thinking, first about my Grammy and Grandpap, and then, I contemplated even more.
My Grammy’s colored lights on her Christmas Tree always went out…every single year, and we still smiled. She always made a point to share the empty, unlit spot with us. Sometimes Grandpap drove endearingly to the local JC Penney’s and returned with another strand of the sought-after luminous treasure. Ironically, his favorite song was “You light up my life” by Debby Boone. After he returned, Grammy also shared the accompanied relief when she could tuck in a row of extra lights daintily around her beloved ornaments. Yet, at other times no colored lights were found within a 10-mile radius; they were sold out. Or, for some odd reason, even the new lights or another set dimmed, the tree would remain unevenly lit, yet we still smiled.
True gifts go beyond the decorations and the presents under the tree.
Some gifts are worthwhile lessons or every so often we adapt or change our perceptions of celebrations. Others are more traditional vivid occasions or recollections of heartwarming days, shared picture-perfect moments. We know the times that are deeply felt.
Not all holiday events bring robust joy or unfold as expected. Sometimes we inevitably disappoint one another amidst the hustle of the holidays, offering too much excitement intermingled with chaos. Even in the Christmas Story the dog gobbles the turkey and the thoughtful intention of a gift of the bunny costume is misconstrued. Families are like that.
If we can look beyond to cherish it all, the love, the laughter, the cattywampus that family life brings. The lived experience is a gift in and of itself.
We practice every day to offer not perfect gifts, but authentic ones.
To all whose tree fell over, lights went out, sugar cookies burned, Mary Janes mismatched, tears rolled like torrents because mac and cheese was not on the menu, kids wrestling matches met the Berber carpet with a spilled cup of grape soda and the like, and if family togetherness felt less than impeccable, be kind to yourself. I believe these moments define our genuine family life more than most admit.
In the meantime, seek the gifts. When you look back, you may realize many moments were filled with value, although they felt weighted. In time they may actually illuminate a gift far greater. Our responses to these experiences make a world of difference for our children. Take the time to look closely at the dozen sparkling lights you may have, celebrate them, and make meaning of the other 588. If you know someone who is deeply in despair, offer your presence.
May your holiday reveries and memories be filled with family authenticity, sprinkles of joy and brushed with golden glitters of holiday magic. And if the joy and magic are in place and abundant, we know on those occasions that all align, we truly are doubly blessed.
And, just in case you’re wondering, with my sheer grit and labored amateur electrical investigation, our tree is sparkling with 512 shiny lights. My family breathed a sigh of relief, and we still smiled.
To my ETC families, thank you for teaching me life’s lessons and the value of celebrating the greatness in the smallness of family life.
To my beautiful family, for showing lightheartedness and seeing our vibrant family love as the constant, amidst life’s imperfections, even when the tree lights dim, now and again. You are my joy, always.
Author: Stacy Sue Rosello, MA, OTR/L
Founder, Embrace the Child, ® Ltd.
Editor: Grace Anne Rosello, BA
(My much-loved daughter is currently on holiday break. However, I recognize Grace Anne here for her highly valued contribution to Christmas tree decorating and lighting, literary words of wisdom, and her most exquisite gift of realizing the beauty in the world, unlike any other human that I know.)
Copyright © 2021 Stacy Sue Rosello