Our Northern Lights

A few blocks from here, in a modest house at the edge of town, lives a woman whose years, all by themselves, make her remarkable. Bessie is one hundred years of age and still lives on her own.

Last evening while starting out on a walk with my dog Molly, I caught a glimpse of Christmas lights from this neighbor’s home. Although ordinarily we avoid her block–on account of two miniature Dobermans who live around the corner–my dog and I walked the two blocks north to see the lights.

It was just becoming dark. What I mean is, the evening was past twilight but had not yet reached complete darkness. I wish I could describe this brief time of almost-dark. I could see the bright colored lights strung along the garage’s eaves and the low-slung roof of the house, but I could also see the house itself, which glowed with warmth. A grandma’s house in a little wood, with Christmas lights, too, around its window frames and above the garden gate.

But then, I have always liked her out-of-the-way house. Once in springtime several years ago, I asked permission to take pictures of the flowering tree behind her house, and the weathered shed and the iron wheel-rim leaning against the shed. She seemed amused to think that anyone would consider her backyard something to put in a photograph.

On this night in the beginning of the holiday season I saw it all in a different light. My thoughts were of her children—or, actually, grandchildren–who must have been here to put up the lights again this year. What a loving and beautiful thing it was for them to do for her—and for all who happen by her corner on that little-used street. Here and there across our town are all such messages of good cheer, but hers was the one I noticed first. I must go there soon, not in the near darkness, but on a bright afternoon, to say hello to Bessie and to wish her a merry and blessed Christmas. I will only be returning her greeting.

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