A Glow In The Darkness Is The Best Gift Of All

In May, 2013 a columnist by the name of Craig Wilson took his final bow after a buyout from his employer, USA Today. He wrote a weekly column for them called “The Final Word” for more than sixteen years. His writing – regardless of the subject matter – provided readers with a unique, thoughtful take on even the most take-for-granted aspects of daily life.

During his long career there, one December he wrote an article which dealt with holiday decorations. Specifically, displays that provide a depth of feeling that make passers-by smile and project the spirit of the holidays upon them.

I present this gentle reminder from Craig Wilson (and his father) of just how simple, yet magical, this season can be…

A Glow In The Darkness Is The Best Gift Of All

Every December, a neighbor of ours opens his dining room shutters and lets in the world.

A floor-to-ceiling tree, laden with ornaments and white lights, fills the bay window. Underneath it is spread an assortment of antique toys. Original Raggedy Ann books, a model train engine from the Pennsylvania Railroad, a fire truck and an assortment of old stuffed animals. An elephant. A bear. A well-loved floppy-eared rabbit sporting a winter sweater and seated in a wicker sleigh, ready to glide.

The window, which is right on the sidewalk and perfect for viewing, has become a holiday tradition in the neighborhood. Like many, I make a detour on my nightly dog walk just to pass by.

I know there will come a Christmas when the display won’t be there, but until then, I happily take in the annual offering, just as I used to take in the mesmerizing holiday windows years ago at Sibley’s department store in Rochester, N.Y.

The magic of our neighborhood window, however, is that there’s nothing commercial about it. My neighbor offers up the display every year purely for the joy it might give a passerby, not to make a sale or hype a product.

It’s perhaps the simplest of Christmas gifts, which also makes it the best.

When I was walking Maggie the other night, I watched as a young mother and father pointed out the various toys to their daughter. She was maybe 3 or 4 and in her father’s arms. From the look on her face, you’d have thought she was in another world. Maybe she was.

And then the trio strolled away, happy perhaps in the belief that they’d just had one of the most pleasant and innocent experiences of their hectic holiday. A serendipity of the season.

When I was growing up in the country, Christmas displays like my neighbor’s window were not abundant.

But I remember being impressed that someone would take the time and effort to hang, say, a single strand of multicolored lights around their barn door. Or wrap a lamp pole with lights, aglow at the end of the lane. A lonely beacon in the night.

My dad did the same.

Christmas after Christmas, he would run the world’s longest extension cord across the snow-covered front yard, down to a tiny fir tree that proudly stood sentinel by the side of the road.

He covered the tree with what seemed like thousands of lights, and every night at 5, he turned them on with all the flourish of lighting the tree at Rockefeller Center.

I’ve often wondered what people thought as they drove down this country road, in the middle of nowhere, and came upon a solitary tree glowing in the December darkness.

Maybe they thought it was the prettiest thing they ever saw. Maybe they saw it as a gift.

Maybe they realized someone was just sharing his joy. Nothing to sell. No agenda in mind. Something done just for the joy of it. Like my neighbor’s magical window.

And maybe that’s what it’s all about.



Picture Courtesy Keil Tree

97 thoughts on “A Glow In The Darkness Is The Best Gift Of All”

  1. How magical, Bruce!
    I love going downtown to see the Ogilvy Christmas window which is now officially moved the McCord Museum – which is rather fitting as it is a Canadian museum.
    How wonderful to gift the spirit to any and all who passed by that little tree.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. This is a wonderful story! I remember as a child that there was a small neighborhood nearby that would decorate their homes with simple Christmas lights (this was the 60’s) and maybe even some of their bushes outside. Most usually had their tree visible in a front window as well. It became affectionately known as Twinkle Lane. To me it was pure magic.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Twinkle Lane does sound magical. Where my wife is from, many years ago there was one cul-de-sac where the houses “teamed up” for classy, elegant, understated decorations which had people from all over driving out of their way just to take a spin around the cul-de-sac.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am glad you pay tribute to Craig Wilson with this post. I remember his columns that ran in the Features section (or green dot section) of USA Today. I no longer read USA Today because it no longer has enough good writing like the pieces Craig Wilson did.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. How wonderful. When I was in Iceland I discovered that every household does this, put up some lights outside for others to enjoy. It makes it a magical place to visit, with the added extra of some northern lights if you are lucky.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. ‘If only,’ I find myself saying that a lot lately. Thanks for reposting an article that’s got heart and soul. So do you! It’s sad folks don’t celebrate/decorate for other occasions with as much exuberance. People walking by my house, if they peek thru a few tress, might see two lit up and decked out fake trees in my FLorida room year round. They’re hung with souvenirs from my world travels and many homemade ornaments. On the other side of the room, windows sport fairy light curtains. My dining table is decorated for whatever season it is… kids that visit are usually delighted. Adults are sometimes amused, sometimes perplexed. Why go to all that trouble, they ask? I get peeved a bit at Christmas revealers that put everything into one holiday and nothing into the rest of the year. Even Scrooge knew better ‘hold Yule in your heart year round’ he said once the 3 ghosts left. Can we only endure one big holiday effort per year (although 4th of July & Halloween gets some coverage)? Christmas in July is unfortunately a marketing ploy, though once it was something else. I keep looking for the house decorated for Groundhogs Day, Beltane, or the fall equinox, bedecked with sparkling lights… cheers!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I was just discussing with my wife the other day about having Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year all literally on top of each other. I think Thanksgiving and New Year just get “lumped in” with Christmas. I do think some of the other holidays could use some more love as well! Cheers!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Christmas has been so commercialized…it’s nice to appreciate the ones that are doing it for the joy of doing it. I’m dragging out the Peanuts stuff now to place around the house…just for the love of it. Wonderful post.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. We had a late start this year because of covid…first time we ever got it…but it was mild. I’m looking forward to Christmas this year…we are decorating now.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Lulu: “We can just imagine that glowing tree all by itself out in the night!”
    Charlee: “Our Dada says it made him think of the lamppost on the way to Narnia. Seems he was always hoping he might stumble across it out in the woods, but he never did …”

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I’m glad you posted this, Bruce. Here in L.A., specifically in “the valley,” a house owner has trimmed their bushes to look like a giant dog. But every Christmas, they put antlers, a glowing red nose, golden lights, and presto…a giant Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. It’s deceptively simple but very effective. A few nights ago, I saw it for the first time, and it was absolutely charming.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Hi Bruce, below, I posted two links that show what the giant ‘poodle’ looks like and the story behind it, along with the Rudolph makeover. Let me know if the links work. You can also google North Hills, CA, Giant Bush poodle, or Fido the Reindeer…



        Liked by 2 people

  9. What a great sentiment. So heart-warming. The same thing as share the love or pay it forward. I bet that lit-up tree lit up a LOT of people’s lives, even if only for a moment. I saw some graffiti on a stop sign once that, instead of marking territory or scrawling gibberish or whatever, it said: You are beautiful. I actually wanted to meet the person that had written that there, it was so unusual. A nice change from reality!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Oh what a lovely post, Bruce 🙂 I found particularly poignant the understanding that at one point, that lovely light in the darkness will not be there anymore. We had the opposite happen the other evening. We go for a little drive every Christmas to see the lights in our little town. The other night, my husband commented on a house that has never had decorations before, noting that ‘the new people must have moved in’ (the house had recently been on the market). So they have added their own light in the darkness to this little town we all call ‘home’ 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Patti, we do the same thing! “Hey look, the new residents decorated that house this year.” We like to get out in the cold night air and drive around, taking in all the sights of the season. And for sure, some of the most meaningful decorations are where you’d least expect them. Glad you enjoyed this post, Patti.😊

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hey Bruce, I just read through your article “What’s in a Name” and had a solid laugh. Clearly many underestimate the power of the Internet and the wild suggestions we’d gladly vote up. The “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong” is hilariously dark! 😀

    I also checked out your ClickClickKnow and I must say I was shocked about the subject matter because I was in fact discussing that whole idea with my S/O too. We were talking about how it must’ve been complicated back in the day for people to make an educated guess about where they should migrate for better opportunities in life and how it’s 10000% easier with all the information accessible on the internet versus back in the day.

    P.S. I’m a huge fan of WestWold, that is, nothing beats season 1. Season 2 was a stretch but still intriguing. But then I gave up with Season 3… Did you adore S3 and S4 as much as S1?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Lashaan, thanks for checking out those prior posts! Westworld Season 1 was for me one of the best seasons of sci-fi in a long time. Season 2 I found just so-so, and was worried about the show’s future after that season ended. Season 3 was too off-the-rails for me. I still watched it, but it was no longer appointment TV. I watched several of the Season 3 shows long after they aired. I came back with an open mind for Season 4 and though I thought it got off to a very promising start, it quickly became Season 3 all over again for me. A shame, because it held so much promise after it debuted.


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