Thursday, December 8, 2011

You Light Up My Life

When my older brother and I were babies, my parents, from New York, lived in an area of Boston that was not high on diversity. Back then, Boston wasn't considered a bastion of heterogeneity, but from the way my mother describes it, the homogeneity of this particular neighborhood really shone through in the month of December. My family, apparently was a multicultural insertion into this neighborhood, given my parents viewing Jesus in a different context than the neighbors.

According to my mother's recollections, every house on the street was aglow in flashing, multicolored lights from the day after Thanksgiving until past the New Year.  Having previously lived in urban areas with neighbors with less enthusiasm for blatant displays of the Christmas spirit, I am imagining unwittingly being thrust into an environment where everyone but them was "seeing the light" was a bit bewildering.

Once my parents left that neighborhood, we had homes in a variety of either secluded or very urban areas, both of which are not conducive to blatant displays of much of anything. One place we lived was so high atop a steep driveway, we used to sled down it in the winter (right into the street, apparently). Another home was so hidden down a steep driveway that our cleaning man's neon blue Dodge would regularly get stuck halfway down our hilly front lawn and need to be towed. We didn't get many trick-or-treaters at either location, by the way.

As an adult, I have lived in areas where discreet believers and nonbelievers blissfully coexist. In our current neighborhood, full of families, Halloween tends to be where people externally dress their houses in lights and likenesses of Scarecrows and bloody body parts--a more secular version of the creche. The winter holiday season provides an opportunity for neighbors to put up seasonal wreaths--perhaps constructed from repurposed pine needles--and some tasteful strings of lights, hopefully not flashing. After all, even a die-hard agnostic can get behind something that helps light up the residential streets when they get pitch black by 4:30 pm.

During a recent bout of insomnia, I looked out our front window, and saw a disturbing flash in my peripheral vision. We recently had a fire on our street in the same general direction, so my adrenaline rushed as I anticipated another incident of fire. After taking a deep breath and a second look, I realized that a down-the-street neighbor's house was adorned in multicolored lights. And it was still November. I felt for the neighbor's neighbor who would have to get used to living next to something as bright as a neon pub sign for the next two months. Being just days after Thanksgiving, I gave thanks for having phenomenally fashionable and tasteful next-door neighbors who have the most beautiful white lights in their backyard. These lights glimmer like a starry constellation, and are a delightful addition to the dark evenings. For all I know, these lights have been up for years, but since I rarely go outside after 6 pm, I only just noticed them. I secretly want to put similar sparkles up in our backyard, but I have no idea where electrical outlets exist in nature.


  1. I am against putting up Christmas lights. Not because of any theological view, or one of taste and decorum, but simply because I am lazy.

  2. Hi, Doug--I like to think of how much electricity is saved during the holiday season by the lazy and depressed among us. This nation should thank us. Thanks for checking in! Best, Karen