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It’s Like Christmas Lights

We went to Longwood Friday night - and it was lovely. We arrived for our 4:30 tickets as darkness was descending; fog blanketed the landscape and it was an ethereal, magical night - almost spooky. You couldn’t see the outline of the trees until you were right up on them. From far away, it looked like every branch was wrapped in lights.

But when you got up close, you could see the true outline of the trees - branches going this way and that, spreading past the brightly lit part and reaching branches out into the darkness.


We’ve spent all month opening beautiful cards from friends, their family happily snuggling in an open field, walking along the beach hand in hand, smiling on a fallen log in coordinated sweaters. But what you can’t see is the bribes and threats it took to create that magical photo. You don’t see the sobbing middle schooler who doesn’t understand yet that friends come and friends go; you don’t see the struggling student, you don’t see the stress that a teen’s bad choices are causing. You don’t see the Visa bill and you don’t see the marital tension.

When the kids are young, our struggles so often mimic those in our peer circle - potty training, defiance, maybe a little shameful biting. As the branches grow longer and the kids get older, it gets harder to find someone who can relate to your struggles and guide you toward a conclusion. Your kid’s experimenting with drugs? No one talks about it. Your kid is in danger of failing? No one talks about it. Dinner at your house is a twice-weekly affair involving moody teens and no one talking to each other? Yup.

Which is not to say that that’s the whole story either. It’s all of it - the sturdy trunk and branches wrapped in light, AND the branches cloaked in darkness and fog. The smaller branches can’t support the weight of the lights - they will snap easily when the snow comes, they can’t bear the load.

Just like at Longwood, what you see in families - is only part of the story. Look closer.

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