Who knows how old I was? It was the age of strings of lights with screw-in bulbs that squeaked with age and once-a-year use when you tightened the ones that worked themselves loose over the seasons. The one in my hand was a dull red, almost dusty rose with age. How could that be pretty on the tree? How could it shine with the light of Christmas on our wonderful tree? I wanted to throw it away. But you didn't waste, not even a single lackluster bulb that lived in the hidden cupboard under the stairs all the months of the year save one.

Bring that light, Amy. This one's broken.

I held back, sure the cloudy bulb would ruin Christmas, would cast an ugly shadow on the beauty and take away the magic of the day. Mama held out her hand. I dropped the bulb in her open palm and thrust both hands behind my back. I wanted no part of this.

There. Let's plug them in and see how it looks. Run turn off the lights.

Toe-lifted, I reached up and turned off the lights. I stared at the wall, not wanting to turn around.

Ohhh! Look! Assorted sounds of admiration floated like snow fairies around the room.

I squeezed my eyes shut and turned around on a moment that hung in time, then chanced a peek through one eye.

And twirled and clapped my hands.

It WAS beautiful. All of it was beautiful! And the loveliest light of all was the red one that shone with a deep, lustrous beam when lit from inside.

And so do we all.

Merry Christmas.