So I'm walking back from Sunoco in a just-after-dusk winter-is-coming see-your-breath sort of cold, with Christmas lights twinkling on the rooftops of probably a third of the houses directly in my field of vision. Big lights, small lights, blue lights, white lights, bulbs and wreaths and icicles in merry loops and patterns. But there's no question which one is best.
There's a sweet little house just in the bend of the road, a cottage of stone with a neatly-fenced lawn and about two hundred thousand twinkling bulbs in every color of the rainbow. They 're stapled to every inch of the house that could possibly hold a staple. The roof is not only outlined, but colored in. The bushes are shimmering. The walkway is glowing.
My leanings on winter holidays are scattered like the lights. Like a good semi-non-practicing Pagan-ish type, I dutifully light a Solstice fire on the longest night and burn the things I want to do away with for the coming year. But that holiday is a little more stern than I like, because, to take part, I have to admit which things I might still want that I definitely don't need anymore, and I'm a Taurus -- read, a pack rat -- mentally and emotionally as well as physically. I don't just collect trinkets and knick-knacks and about a million useless papers. I collect acquaintances and habits and emotional states that perhaps don't serve my best interests anymore, and I find it very hard to let go of them.
So Solstice, though I practice it, is not my most beloved of holidays.
And here are these Christmas lights.
I'm not a Christian, but I love me some Christmas. Sparkling lights on see-your-breath nights, people singing, bells ringing, that special sound scissors make when they cut through wrapping paper, the smell of Scotch tape and the way kids (and teachers, truth be told) squint at streetlights and headlights to try to discern if the misty rain working its way down out of the sky on a forty-degree night might possibly -- possibly -- possibly be snow, falling on a school night -- I love me some Christmas. Which is why I'm staring at this precious little cottage with its Christmas lights twinkling in the night.
Then my gaze roams from the house. Down its walk. Past its fence. Across the highway.
To the other house.
This one is white, not stone. It's still sweet, in its own way -- or at least you can tell it would be sweet if somebody would just clean it up. Right now, the brown lawn rolls listlessly up to the edge of a pile of trash that's been sitting there for over a month. Past that is the picture window, in which there is a slight green smudge along the bottom of the curtain -- then a slight blue smudge -- and then yellow -- which is the Christmas lights that have fallen from the window frame and are now lying in a heap on the sill, out of sight.
Two crotchety cats guard the door like stone lions, angry and disgruntled, and beyond the corner of the house, you can glimpse the half-a-shed, which is a building that used to be a whole shed before somebody took a sledgehammer to it -- then an axe -- then a car with a tow chain -- and finally gave up and let the crooked thing stand. Its parallelogram frame is marred by broken bits of siding and a scattering of a million bent nails, shining like drops of ice.
That one's mine.
I've got homework to grade tonight, and lessons to plan, and those crotchety cats look ready to move on and find another home if I don't pay them a little attention sometime soon. Just looking at the half-a-shed and the trash pile makes me tired.
But I love this season, with its scattering of holidays, its sparkles and its jingles and its hope. I think maybe I can find it in me to at least re-hang my single strand of holiday lights before I turn in for the night.