Many of the world’s religions have special holidays near the time of the winter solstice. When the days are short, and darkness seems to close in around us, we turn to sources of light … both actual and symbolic.
This month, I’d like to share with you a piece I wrote 15 years ago. At the time, I yearned for grandchildren, yet it seemed that grandchildren would not be a part of my life. Still, through inventing a story, I could enjoy the feelings that I associated with being a grandmother. I think you’ll also notice the way I wove light into this story … one might say, the light of hope. In 2013, I became a grandmother to a wonderful little boy. And, almost exactly three years later, in 2016, I was blessed with a second grandson. Indeed, the pleasure they have brought me is just what I had yearned for. They are, indeed, the light of my life!
This month, I’d like to share with you the story I wrote in 2001 when grandchildren were just a dream!
THE GLOW OF CHRISTMAS
Mary’s grandmother smiles at her and urges the child to open the present that is wrapped in stripes of green and gold. Mary leans close under the tree, so close that pine branches catch in her hair and brush against her cheek. The sparkling lights cast a glow over the scene. Mary lifts the square package and with a squeal of delight sets it on the coffee table as she tucks her pajama-clad legs underneath her.
Mary’s grandmother worries about her because Mary was only three when her mother died, and it is she among the three children who alone seems to carry the grief in her sad dark eyes.
But tonight Mary’s eyes are luminous as she carefully removes the golden bells attached to the bow on the package. She holds them up to her ear and shakes them with her small fingers. The bells are shiny, and the cheerful ring joins the sound of crackling logs in the nearby fireplace.
Mary carefully removes the green and gold paper and opens the box. She pulls forth a snow globe that glistens and glows in her hands as if placed in this scene by angels. Mary moves back into the multi-colored halo of light from the Christmas tree so as to better view her treasure. She shakes the snow globe and then turns it upside down and back several times.
Drawing the snow globe close to her eyes, Mary looks inside at the giant and friendly flakes of snow floating down over the miniature scene. She sees a tiny cottage, it windows glowing from the lights within. And nearby, midget pine trees sit in canopies of snow. Small birds perch on the trees, and rabbits crouch next to tiny snow-capped bushes. It is the glow of what is inside the house, what is unseen, that captures the imagination, that suggests a beauty more graceful even than this moonlit snow.
Now Mary’s brothers want to have a turn shaking the globe and gazing into its magic world. Mary generously hands the globe over to Nicholas who holds it close to the Christmas tree. The lights from the tree turn the scene blue, then green, then red, and yellow before returning to blue. The snow globe reflects ornaments from the tree – an angel, a glitter-covered pinecone, a red bulb, an elf.
Alexander takes his turn with the globe. He holds it up in front of the fireplace. The firelight casts an orange glow on the cottage and the snowflakes that cascade down around it. He carefully sets it on the table, noticing the way the candlelight dances on the curved glass.
Mary kisses her grandma and thanks her. She says that when she grows up she will have a house just like the one in the globe. “I will be the mommy and there will be a daddy and some children and we’ll all live happily ever after.”
Years pass and Mary has two children of her own. Every year, as Christmas approaches, Mary carefully unwraps the snow globe and places it on the coffee table. Her children ask her to tell them again about their great-grandmother and about the night she gave Mary this snow globe. Mary completes the story with these words: “That was when I wished that some day I would live in this house with children just like you!” Eleanor and Jared love this part of the story, as does Mary’s husband Jack who smiles over the rim of his reindeer-adorned coffee cup.
Many more years pass. An old woman walks down an icy sidewalk, clutching a cloth bag to her chest. Snow swirls around her, catching light from the streetlights. Eleanor reaches a house and pauses to gaze at it. This is the house of her daughter, her son-in-law, and her grandchildren.
The windows of the house glow warmly. Outside, trees and bushes stand sweetly, as if the snow on their branches were sugar frosting. A bird dances from one branch to another, then rumples its feathers comically to protect it from the cold. A cat skitters from the bushes and rubs against the woman’s legs.
Eleanor stands on the doorstep and rings the bell. Children swing open the door and light pours out like a river of gold, enveloping the old woman. Eleanor’s white hair, flooded with Christmas light, looks like that of an angel. The children shriek “Grandma!” and smother her with hugs and kisses. The cat slides through the open door, grateful to be home.
Eleanor laughs as she enters the house, and love enfolds her. In a little while, when everyone is settled around the glowing Christmas tree, she will pull forth from her cloth bag a package wrapped in green and gold. She can’t wait to see the lights in the eyes of her grandchildren. #
This month’s challenge: Write a piece about winter, or the winter holidays, in which LIGHT plays a special role. Enjoy your writing adventures. With just a pencil or a computer, we can all compose a magical world, a world with light, hope, and love!
Let us hear from you!