Tuesday, December 6, 2011

All Lit Up!

I still remember what it was like, trying to fall asleep beneath those colored bulbs that trimmed our house the whole month of December. They were so bright they cast rainbow shadows onto my bedspread, sent a cheery glow filtering in through cotton curtains.

It was the significance that had me giddy. Christmas was here.

Sharing a bedroom with my younger brother and sister made it even more exciting. Our little world was charged with energy - the kind that made us feel like our skin might split right open at the thought of Santa coming down the chimney, his reindeer stamping softly on our roof.


I remember one night in particular when we got to jumping on our beds and laughing so hard my sides hurt. Dizzy from bounding up and down, we collapsed onto our beds in fits of giggles. My brother got us started by simply repeating two lines from Moore's Christmas poem: "He had a broad face and a little round belly that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly."

Someone's belly could actually shake when they laughed? Like a bowl full of jelly?

The thought had us in stitches. We bared our bellies and tried to shake them. Like jelly. The sight must have been ridiculous. We thought we were hilarious. (Even if our parents didn't.)

I also loved stepping onto the front porch every Christmas Eve as we pranced around, waiting to go to Grandma's house. I would step beyond the eaves so I could look past the Christmas lights and carefully scan the sky, convinced I could hear jingle bells somewhere in the black night.

Both Doug and I grew up with the rainbow lights hung round our houses. And this year, something nostalgic stirred in us. We wanted those bulbs for our children. So Doug searched high and low, far and near, and he finally found them at a small hardware store downtown.


On Thanksgiving weekend, he hung lights, I raked leaves, and the kids dragged each other across the lawn in sleds because the weather was fairly warm (if you kept moving).


I wish I had a picture of Doug on the ladder, stringing lights. I took my camera outside with that intent, but amid diaper changes and zone defense on the boys, all I got was Ali wearing her shades as she watched the lights go up.

That night, we flung the front door open, raced to the edge of the street and all five kids huddled close to my legs while we waited for Doug to give the word. Together we counted as loud as we could, "One... Two... Three..."


Shazam! As the lights buzzed on for the first time, we shouted in unison, "Merry Christmas!!" Loud enough the neighbors across the street heard us.


And there we were, all lit up. The house, the living room, and us.

The lights, the decorations, our Advent readings that began with John 8:12 reminding us of the True Light (our list of Advent Readings next post), and our "secret pal service." All of it has me glowing.


But no one else is excited around here...




That night, I slowly pushed the girls' bedroom door open to see if they were finally asleep. A rainbow shadow reflected off the white trim of Ali's bed, I paused over Sami's dangling arm as I took in their faces, brushed my fingers across their warm cheeks.

Christmas makes me feel like a child again.

Past memories mingle with memories in the making. I reel back and forth. I am the parent. I am the child.

I remember a few of the gifts I was given, but more than anything I remember the magic, the hint of mystery in my mom's voice, the sparkle in my dad's eyes when he told us stories, our breath puffing visible clouds into the air as we crouched in the bushes, waiting for just the right moment to set our secret gift on a doorstep.

I want that for my children.

I want them to be filled with light.


The lights on our house are no show-stopper. You won't find any cars lingering at our bend in the road. But that old-fashioned glow is making me happy, charging my little life.

Yes, it's Christmas, and I am all lit up.


  1. I LOVE this. You've transported me back to my own childhood. I'm all lit up too. ;)

  2. I almost bought colored lights this year...now I wish I would have. We had them on our tree growing up-and of course would always touch them and burn our fingers. :) I love thinking of Christmas's past.

  3. i love you catherine! I love the picture of your girls sleeping, makes me all teary.

    you've inspired me. I need to get all lit up. I'm going to put my lights up tomorrow!

  4. I loved this post and I love your old fashioned Christmas lights. They're beautiful.

  5. I remember when I came to the States for the first time in 1984 I had never seen decorated houses before, and I was absolutely stunned. It's been only for the past years that people in Austria started to put up lights outside.

    My favorite Christmas moment -- or rather the moment I know it's Christmas -- is when on Christmas Eve I light candles outside. You'll see a picture if you scroll down to the end of the post: http://fraumahlzahnsgrazerlei.blogspot.com/2009/12/der-grindinger-und-die-weihnachtsperle.html

    I just love this moment.

    I like your thoughts about what you really remember from when you were a kid, and what makes Christmas such a wonderful time.

    I can't really share many thoughts like this, but I want that for my kids, too. I hope that St. Nikolaus becomes a fond memory, since we always invite lots of friends. Even my son (9) still believes in St. Nikolaus and is all excited about him coming to our house (in person, ;-)).

    So long,

  6. Tricia - know what else lit me up? that video of your girls discussing their "haircuts!" So funny. And how I admired your calm voice. My twin girls snipped their hair just today!! While I was trying to Christmas shop on Amazon. Bah! My response was... not so calm. ;)

    Sarah - aren't you grateful for good Christmas memories? Even burned fingers! They are magic.

    Saydi - Do you have your favorite nativity painting up yet? By Kershisnik. Every time I see it, I think of you. xo

    Heather - You have such a kind way about you. Wish I knew you in person!

    Corinna - Ahhh, your lights are beautiful! Did you make those? What a lovely tradition. You've got to watch/listen to this talk.


    It's given by Dieter Uchtdorf (German, obviously) who is part of the First Presidency of the Mormon Church. He talks about Christmas candles and how, as a boy he almost burned the house down! Thought you'd enjoy it. xo

  7. [Ronda] Your home with the festive Christmas lights looks so full of love and light from the outside. Even though you have hard days, you are making wonderful memories, and there IS a lot of love and light in your home.

  8. i luv tradition and bringing to your family what was so special to you as a child...i too hope for some of the same thoughts, feelings, and interactions i had as a little one for my own. i LUV the lights!!!

  9. Absolutely beautiful writing, Cath! Your lights are magical, and I love the memories behind them. Your children are so lucky to have a mama full of light and love. I love this: "I am the parent. I am the child." Yes, indeed. I have been thinking about that lately...how little, how fragile, and how dependent I still am....Moses' vision comes to my mind frequently. The, here as you talk about Christmas, I think of the way children are so open to wonder and magic. Yes, I want to be like that.

    Sending you love this weekend. xo

  10. Mom - I love you. thank you.

    Cami - just catching up on your blog. oh my goodness. so much to say! I'll email or comment there.

    Anne Marie - Moses' vision... what a beautiful wandering along the lines of parent and child. Yes, that exchange is so powerful. Thank you for that. Sending love and prayers your way.


Related Posts with Thumbnails