It is late at night, past 1 am. I havenít switched time zones yet, and am loathe to give in to sleep. I am alone.

Outside, my father has carefully, thoughtfully strung one of the small fir trees with Italian lights. Christmas lights, though it's long past the holiday. The tree is not much more than a babe--quite petite. And the lights wind around from the bottom to its tip top, gracefully slung from side to side. It seems ostentatious, almost. Like rhinestones on a toddler. But the little fir tree wears its finery well.

I am jealous. I want my father to embrace me. I want him to carefully, oh so carefully, cover me with lights. Take the time to place them on me just so. Lights that will call out to all who see them ďThis is my daughter, whom I love enough to take time to encircle her with these lovely lights.Ē

It is very, very dark here. Inky black. The sparkly lights blink as the wind ruffles the fir tree. It casts a small glow, illuminating the birch tree next to it. The fir treeís creamy sister is lanky, a good twenty feet tall. I fancy them as sisters, keeping each other company down by the lake. She leans out over the lake, wafting her leaves out into the water in autumn. I rarely see her in autumn. We only come here in deep winter. My eyes fill up as I peer out of my window. I donít really know why I'm crying. I throw on some clothes and walk outside, thinking that if I get nearer to the trees, my tears will abate. I want to hug the little fir tree like the lights are hugging it. I brush the branches, gently stroke the lights. My dad took such care hanging them. The placement looks careless, effortless. But he wound and rewound until it was just right.

I havenít yet stopped crying. I am standing beside the little fir tree. I look up at the sky and the black reaches down for me. It cradles me, wipes my tears. The stars are out and it is so good to see them. I live in the city, most days. And what we see down there is a pale, sickly imitation of this sky, this night. It is so darkóthere is no moon tonight.

Funny. Itís the kind of night that terrified me as a child. I always wanted to see what was before me.

Well, I canít tonightóit is just too dark. And Iím no longer afraid of the dark. I like being enveloped by it. It feels like it cares for me, embraces me, holds me. Even when others donít. So I keep looking up. The pin-pricks of light pulse throughout the night sky. I think that the night is just a coverlet that someone threw over the sky to hide the light behind. If I could just wrench it off, the blazing light would pour out, flow over me, cover me with light.

I look up. And I see light. I look beside me. And I see light. And I feel a little less lonely. A little more cared for. I donít need my father to decorate me with sparkling, shiny finery. There is light without it, without him.

The wind is picking up. I pull my coat closer and head into the house. It is dark in there. Thatís all right. I will light my own way.

Liz Thompson Grapentine is a mother and a free-lance writer in the Chicago area. With her husband Carl, she has two lovely above-average children and a large dog. A retired attorney, she writes because she is driven by a communication compulsion larger than her passion for chocolate ice cream. Liz is the creator of Turning Pages: Writing From Home.

Liz's work has previously appeared in the spring nineteen ninety seven issue.

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© Copyright 1997 - Elizabeth Thompson Grapentine. All rights reserved.