The Washington Post

By Paula Matuskey, 66, Ellicott City, retired administrator (higher education)

My father loved Christmas. I vividly recall his light displays outside our house, not the 1,000-light extravaganzas we see today but, rather, red spotlights focused on the front of the house. There was also a 15-inch wooden star that he crafted using a simple saw and glue. It was covered in tinfoil, with lights on the back, so that when it was lighted, a silhouette appeared against the house’s brick front. The lights behind the stars were red. Each year brought subtle variations, but the concept was the same.

(Nathaniel Grann/TWP)

One November day, I visited my parents as Dad went through his annual ritual of checking out his lights. I was perplexed when he asked my mother for her red nail polish. Next thing I knew, he was hand-painting all of his miniature lights to achieve a “consistent red color.”

After he died, I found on his workbench a medicine bottle with the label ripped off. It was filled with red lights and small green sockets. Now when I see that bottle, I remember Dad, whose lights and whose joy made Christmas special for us.

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