We're packed in the van. We're off to see Christmas lights.
There's music. Hot cocoa in travel cups. And a bevy of boys pressed in tight.
The light display is in a neighboring community. It's the community where my grandparents lived for years. There's no reason to go there now, except to see lights at Christmas. My grandparents went to heaven a few years back.
So we drive for a half-hour. We weave through the town. I'm twisted backward in my seat, troubleshooting everything from a kicked-off shoe to a cocoa-sloshed coat.
When I turn around front, I see their house. Mamo and Papo's home. It's on the way.
But the sight hits me hard.
"Oh, Lonny," I say. "Look at their house."
It's beautiful. Someone is loving it. There are lights. A yard display. The home is brick and bold and is sparkling Christmas, too.
I watch as we whir past. Past the their bedroom window. Past the living room where we'd gathered close.
"Lonny," I say. We're already a few blocks gone. "Can we go back? For just a minute?"
He smiles. He knows. It doesn't matter that three-fifths of the boys are about to come unglued.
So we turn the corner. We head back. And in the silence of darkness, we sidle next to the curb.
For a moment, I could be a girl. I could be small and sitting in Mom and Dad's big, blue Olds. I look at the steps. I look at the door. I know the sound of the bell. And I know that the knobs in that house are cut class. I look at the window. I've sat on the other side and looked out. Now there are lights. There's a family inside. There was once, long ago, too...
we'd go every year to decorate Mamo and Papo's Christmas tree (and a thousand times in between). There would be a stockpot of something simmering. Papo would have the boxes of ornaments down. There were tin can angels dated back to my mom. There were bulbs that stretched to a string of Christmas-pasts. Papo would hold us on his lap. He'd listen. And love. He'd call my three sisters and me "Baby Girl". Mamo would run her soft fingers over our arms as we spoke. Or she's twist them through through our long, blond hair. She'd make us feel like we were the only ones in the world. Sometimes my cousin Toddy would be there, garland wrapped around his neck, pouncing from behind the tree, eyes glazed with holiday cheer, and he'd make a four little girls gasp and giggle with little-boy-wild.
My own boys begin to go wild in the back. They are bustling. Singing loudly. Patience has run short and the cocoa has run dry.
"Ready?" Lonny asks.
I nod to tell him so. But my heart twists and sitting there I miss them until it hurts.
"Can we go, Mom? Can we see the lights?" someone asks from the back.
The van begins to move.
And I'm moved, too. Because as we pull away, and I'm twisted backward again, I can see them. My grandparents. I see Papo in my oldest son's gentle, quiet ways. I see him in Grant's eyes - the pure blue color and the sparkle that makes me wonder. I see my grandfather's honesty and goodness and the way he loved the Lord. Mamo isn't far, either. She's in the way I learned to listen, the way I touch my own babies, a way of loving passed from Mamo to Mama to me.
"You okay?" Lonny asks.
And I am.
Christmas gifts are wrapped and unwrapped. Here and gone.
But the gift of heritage?
That one keeps giving.
That one is for keeps.
Lord, thank you for my grandparents, for my parents, for those who lived and loved and taught me to do the same. Be with Lonny and me, in our home, as we raise our boys and as we create a heritage for those to come. Amen