Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

In the quiet of the day before festivities kick into high gear for our family, I took a moment to think of the many things I love about this time of year. It's a strange day here down South as it is 71 degrees outside and raining cats and dogs like a typical humid summer day almost. Still, as I look at the lights dancing through my Christmas tree, I am reminded that, yes it is "Christmas in Dixie," and yes, we will celebrate come rain or shine because there's "no place like home" for the holidays! Of all the things that remind me of Christmas, I think it is the twinkling lights and the significance of their glow - like stars in the night announcing hope for us all. Lord knows with all that our world has gone through this year, we are certainly in need of a little hope don't you think? The one thing I am sure of, is that as long as we have the love of our Maker in a human touch, in the soothing voice of those we love and the glow in the eyes of our children and grandchildren, there is always a flicker of hope and promise. To express my thoughts to y'all about Christmas, I wanted to share an excerpt from my book "Southern Whispers..."

Tonight I am watching the most amazing display of twinkling lights. They remind me of those dark southern nights as a child when we could look into the night sky, count the stars and see flickers everywhere. Sometimes it was the southern lights in the sky, and sometimes it was lightening bugs putting on a display in our front yard. What fun we had chasing those strange little critters! Now in case you are wondering, I am not in my back yard chasing lightening bugs and not even on the porch star gazing. No, actually I am indoors looking at my fabulous Christmas lights! While I am not on the porch, I do have the blinds open to my special oasis and can see the display of lights hanging from the roof that I placed there a couple of weeks ago. I can’t believe it is only nine days until we will be celebrating Christmas again. On the one hand, this year has been slower than molasses, and on the other hand, faster than greased lightening. I finally completed the last touches on my Christmas decorating a week ago and I must say, I outdid myself this year. My oh my, how I love this season. Like everything else in the South, we do Christmas BIG here. Why I could land a small plane in the dead of night in my living room with all the lights! When it comes to Christmas, there is one thing you never hear a southerner say… “I think that is just too many lights.” We love to indulge in creating a festive atmosphere – decorating our homes, offices, yards and towns. Some folks even decorate their cars! My son told me about a car he spotted in traffic today donning a Christmas wreath. I saw one with Reindeer antlers…. People who visit my home call it my own Christmas village! Because we don’t experience the snow like folks up North do, we are able to get out and enjoy the lights all over the city. I can still remember hopping in the car as a child driving through our neighborhood and then heading over to the communities that held public light presentations and tours. One community called Siena Vista, often had live characters sitting out on their porches as people strolled through the neighborhood. You can do that down South because it isn’t nearly as cold here! As soon as we tidy up from our Thanksgiving meal, our Christmas boxes are out for decorating. We start early and celebrate long. It isn’t uncommon to see Christmas lights all the way through New Years Day. After that though, we may continue to enjoy our “indoor lights” but simply would die before we burn the outdoor lights. Goodness knows, you don’t want folks talking about you!

Ever since I completed my fabulous tree, I have pretty much camped out in the living room – sleeping on the sofa more nights than in my bed actually. There is something magical and mesmerizing about those tiny little twinkles that dance through my tree. When I set out to decorate the tree, I was like a baby girl in a toy store – I didn’t know where to begin. Even though I wanted to unpack all the ornaments, ribbons and bows first, I decided to be a bit more practical and started unpacking and testing out the lights from last year. Now if you have ever tested out the previous year’s lights, you will understand what I am going to say. I felt like the mean ole’ Grinch had come and stolen Christmas from me for a brief moment. Four strands of my lights wouldn’t burn! What in tarnation?! I sent a message about the lights to my friend who had volunteered to help put up the tree with me and, when help arrived, so did the true spirit of Christmas. Before I knew it, my friend hopped in the car and headed out to Lowes. The result of the purchase that day was more than I could’ve hoped for. I had four huge strands of the “deluxe model” LED random twinkling lights! Why they sparkled and darted in and out of the tree branches like those lightening bugs so long ago! As we stood facing each other winding lights around my tree, the brilliance of the moment was illuminating. My friend could be doing much more serious things than stringing lights around the tree, but it wasn’t about the tree, it was about me. This mattered to me; this gave me joy and delighted my heart, and what delighted my heart made my “secret Santa” smile. There was no agenda, no motive… only a gesture of kindness that received as much from the giving as I did from the receiving...

This excerpt embodies the true meaning of Christmas for me. The lights are like a beacon shining bright as a reminder of all that truly matters - the comforts of home and the love of family and friends. The experience of decorating my tree, the gift of lights last year and mostly the gift of "time" was a brilliant reminder of the true treasures of Christmas and of life. There is no greater gift we can give to others than the gift of ourselves, our love and our time. Last Saturday our extended family had our "Christmas" with my 93 year old grandmother. As we took some time to present her with tangible tokens of our love, we also took some time to give her our true gifts - expressions from our heart as to what a treasure she is to each of us. There was lots of laughter and quite a few tears also as we reminisced about measureless moments we had shared with her through the years. Tonight, I will be sitting down to Christmas Eve dinner with Maw Maw, Mama and Daddy, my brother and his family and my sweet son Josh. Like every other year, as I sit down to our Christmas meal, I will take a moment to reflect, not on what is on the table but "around" the table. My prayer for you, is that you will do the same. True treasures can't be measured in dollars and cents. True treasures are something only the heart can know. Give the greatest gift of all this season - YOU! And receive the greatest gift of all - LOVE!

Merry Christmas!

Starla & All The Rich Family

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