As a child, I would always help my mother decorate the house for Christmas. We would collect boxes of baubles, tinsel and candles from the basement, and we would take them to the living room for unpacking. Every ornament had to be carefully placed where it belonged, only a few days before Christmas Day.
“We mustn’t get over-eager about the festive season,” my mother would say, even though I had been excited for weeks. “If we decorate too early, Christmas might not feel as special.”
One year, when I was eight-years-old, I was busy fetching boxes from the basement on ‘Decorations Day’. When I arrived in the living room, with one of the dusty packages in my arms, my mother gazed at me—her eyes full of sorrow.
“I’ve just heard that your Aunt can’t visit this Christmas,” she mumbled, wiping the crystal tears from her cheeks.
Hiding my deep disappointment, I went to retrieve the next box of ornaments. Aunt Mary was among my favourite people in the whole world. We would often call her ‘Mary Christmas’ because she would continuously sing Christmas Carols throughout the entire month of December. Even when it wasn’t Christmas, Aunt Mary would always find ways to make my whole face smile whenever she visited.
Why she wasn’t able to visit that Christmas, I will never know. Nobody ever explained. Even so, that Christmas turned out to be the most magical Christmas I’ve ever had, and it all started when I returned to our dimly lit basement.
The old timber steps creaked in agony as I made my way into the gloomy space which lay beneath our home. There were still several boxes waiting for me, each bursting at the seams with shiny trinkets. But as I marched toward them, something else caught my attention. On the lumpy concrete floor, lying beside the boxes, was a tiny lightbulb. A Christmas lightbulb, to be specific, and I hadn’t noticed it before. With a twisted piece of electrical wire poking from its screw top, it looked like someone had torn the lightbulb from the cable it was supposed to hang from.
When I reached for the light, it began to glow—crimson in colour. I collected it from the ground and shoved it inside my trouser pocket.
As soon as I had a chance, I hurried to my bedroom and placed the delicate little lightbulb on my desk for safekeeping. I was curious where it had come from. None of our Christmas lights appeared to be missing a bulb.
Despite my fascination with the little light, I still yearned to see my aunt. I wanted to tell her how much I missed her. I needed her to know how important she was to me. And so, I decided to send her a letter.
After grabbing my tattered notebook and a pen, I sat at my desk and began to write.
Dear Aunt Mary.
I’m writing to tell you…
My mother opened my bedroom door, interrupting me. “What are you up to?” she asked as she entered my room. “It’s almost time for dinner.”
“I’m writing to Aunt Mary,” I replied. “If we can’t see her this Christmas, I want her to know how much I miss her.”
“But it’s too late to post her a letter,” my mother informed me. “It won’t get to her before Christmas.”
At that moment, I was heartbroken. But after my mother left the room, I finished my letter anyway.
That night, I was restless. I kept waking—disturbed by a thousand thoughts. My room seemed darker than usual, and I couldn’t make out any of the posters hung on my wall. That was until something mysterious happened.
As I lay in my bed with heavy eyelids, a light suddenly flooded my room. It was a vivid red, and it didn’t take me more than a second to realise where it was coming from. The little Christmas light on my desk was shining brightly, and it was one of the most exquisite things I had ever seen.
I jumped from my bed and stumbled over to my desk, taking the lightbulb between my fingers. It was then that I saw the face on its glossy surface. While I studied the strange object in my hand, it stared back at me through two large eyes and smiled.
“But… But… “ I said, not entirely sure what else to say.
I didn’t get much sleep that night. How could I sleep? I needed to discover more about the enchanted Christmas lightbulb.
When I placed it back on my desk, the little light flickered as it danced about before me. All the time, it grinned as I watched intently.
“Where did you come from?” I repeated that same question many times.
But Little Light didn’t answer. She seemed unable to speak. Despite that, she certainly wanted to play. After jumping from the desk, she bobbed around my room frantically. Everywhere she went, I followed. When she hid behind my curtains, I hunted until I found her. When she nudged toy cars off the shelves, we raced them across the carpet. These games carried on for quite some time until something else lit up my room. It was a soft glow sent by the moon, which floated in the sky outside my window.
Little Light immediately stopped playing. She sprang on to my chair, then back on to the desk. As I stood to find out what she was doing, she hopped over to a book and flicked it open. Each of the pages rustled as she turned them. When she finished, Little Light blinked as she bounced on the specific page she seemed to have been searching for.
“What are you doing?” I peered at the book, trying to understand.
Little Light twinkled, bobbing on the same spot.
When I moved even closer, I realised that Little Light was trying to tell me something.
“We,” I said. “Are you pointing to the word we?”
Little Light shone intensely, and she leapt across the page. This time she was showing me a different word.
“Where?” I queried. “Where do we have to go?”
Without warning, Little Light launched into the air, flying across my room before colliding with a poster hung over my bed.
“Adventure!” I said, reading the word that was printed in large letters on the poster. “We have to go on an adventure. But… where?”
Little Light dashed out of my room, and I ran after her. It was hard to keep up as she hurried across the landing, down our stairs, and all the way to the basement doorway.
“Wait!” I called out while trying not to be so loud that I’d wake my mother. “Little Light. Wait.”
But Little Light didn’t stop. When she dropped onto each of the steps that led to the cavity beneath our house, she made an odd clinking sound. Once we arrived in the icy-cold basement, she then threw a beam of light onto an old, dirty sheet in the corner.
“That’s my sled,” I whispered as I wandered toward the object which was hidden by the ragged piece of cloth. “You want to go on an adventure with my sled? But I can’t go out in the snow. I’m not even dressed…”
I stopped talking when I glanced down, expecting to see the pyjamas I’d been wearing. Somehow, my nightwear had gone, and trousers and a sweater had replaced it. I then noticed that I was even wearing a woolly hat and scarf. “That’s not possible. I… “ Bewildered, I yanked the sheet from the sled.
When I lay the rickety wooden sled on the floor, Little Light’s impatience was dazzling. Before I could blink, she jumped on board. Sparks of light flashed around the sled’s runners, and it lifted, hovering a few inches from the floor. The bolts holding the sled together rattled as it moved.
Without hesitating, I clambered onto the sled and placed Little Light on my lap.
I don’t even know how we left my house. All I remember is soaring above rooftops on that cold winter’s night. While I gripped the sled’s rope handle with one hand, I raised my other high above my head. Riding my sled down a snowy hill was always breath-taking, but I’d never flown on one before.
As we soared through the air, everything beneath us looked so beautiful. The white blanket which covered endless fields glistened in the moonlight. Trees branches shuddered in the breeze, sending icy clumps of snow crashing to the ground. My home was far behind us, and we picked up speed as we flew toward nearby hilltops.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
But Little Light didn’t answer.
We flew on the sled for quite some time, and as we travelled further, it seemed to be getting lighter. I could make out a tiny reddish blur darting between clusters of snow-covered pine trees below—a fox, which appeared to be roaming in search of food.
Little Light sparkled and started to fidget in front of me. Ahead, I could see the moon hanging in the sky above the horizon. It appeared to be throwing a beam of light on a single house which rested on a distant hillside.
“That’s Aunt Mary’s house!” I cheered. “But… but… how did we get here?”
Little Light squirmed excitedly.
All of a sudden, snow fell harder than I’d ever seen before. It was impossible to see anything other than the enormous, fluffy white flakes which surrounded us. I began to panic and grasped Little Light to keep her safe. The sled we were riding on clattered, and I could feel each of its wooden slats trembling beneath me. Wiping snow from my brow, I tried to focus on Aunt Mary’s house, but it had vanished behind the thick veil of snow.
“Hold on,” I cried, clutching Little Light. “Hold on!”
The sled wobbled and creaked, and I realised we were falling from the sky—fast! With no time to waste, I stuffed Little Light into my trouser pocket, hoping to keep her safe. Only a few feet from the ground, I tightened my grip on the sled’s rope handle and shut my eyes. We were about to crash.
Moments later, lumps of timber lay scattered amongst mounds of snow. My sled had been destroyed when we struck the hillside, and I was on my back, staring at the moon. It was still snowing, but the flakes were much lighter. I stood and took Little Light from my pocket.
“No!” I yelped when I glimpsed Little Light. A crack had appeared on her surface, and she was beginning to fade. “What do I do? What do I do?” I desperately wanted to mend the tiny Christmas lightbulb.
Little Light flickered faintly.
“Aunt Mary,” I said. “She will know what to do.” I could still see Aunt Mary’s house in the distance. I needed to get there quickly.
After brushing the snow from my sweater, I trudged through the deep snow toward the familiar old building.
It seemed to take such a long time to walk the rest of the way to Aunt Mary’s, but we eventually arrived on her red brick doorstep. Except for the moonlight, everything was in darkness. The string of Christmas lights hanging around the outside of her house wasn’t lit, and nobody appeared to be home.
Looking weary, Little Light softly shone and dropped from my gloved hands. Before I knew it, she was back in my pocket, and she hastily shoved another object from inside. A wrinkled scrap of paper landed on the floor, next to my feet.
“What’s that?” I bent down, picked up the peculiar item and started to unravel it. “Wait! How did you get this?” In my hands, I was holding the letter I had written to my aunt earlier that evening.
Little Light tumbled from my pocket onto the bristly doormat which lay on Aunt Mary’s doorstep. With all the strength she must have had left, she glimmered and hopped on the spot.
Instantly, I knew what she wanted me to do. I reached down and gently lay my letter on Aunt Mary’s doormat.
“What now?” I scratched beneath my woollen hat, wondering whether waking Aunt Mary was the sensible thing to do. There was no way I would be able to explain how I got there.
Fading more, Little Light lay on the doorstep. I had no idea how to fix her, and I stretched out my arm, ready to knock on my aunt’s front door. Little Light needed help. I had no choice but to disturb Aunt Mary.
Before my hand struck the door, I heard a noise behind me. To my surprise, when I turned, I could see my old sled heading in our direction. Someone, or something, had repaired it, even though it had been smashed to pieces when we crashed. Magic was everywhere that evening, but I still had to find a way to mend Little Light.
As the sled approached, I bent down and picked up Little Light, still uncertain of the best way to help her. Little Light was dull, and her red glass casing appeared almost grey.
But it was when I stood upright that I noticed the strangest thing. The string of Christmas lights which hung over Aunt Mary’s front doorway was missing a lightbulb. My eyes followed the long thread of Christmas lights as I tried to discover if any more lights had been lost.
“All these lightbulbs look like you,” I said, peering at Little Light. “They all look like you… and… and only one is missing. Hmmm. I wonder… “
I fumbled with the twisted piece of electrical wire attached to Little Light until I was able to remove it. With care, I reached above my head and started to screw her into the socket missing a lightbulb. The instant I’d fixed Little Light in place, the entire string of Christmas lights flooded the hillside with colour.
The brightest lightbulb of all was Little Light. Her crimson glow was striking, and she hung over my aunt’s doorway, looking proud. The crack in her glass casing had even mysteriously vanished.
Exhausted, I made my way back to the sled. I needed to get home before my mother noticed I was missing. As I sat on the slatted seat, I turned my head and waved to Little Light.
“Goodbye, Little Light,” I called, as the sled took to the air. “I’ll miss you.”
Little Light twinkled in reply, and I looked upon her until she disappeared from sight.
The next morning, I woke up later than usual, tired from my adventure with Little Light. When I rushed downstairs for breakfast, my mother was waiting for me in the kitchen. She had the biggest smile I’d ever seen.
“Good morning,” she said. “I’m wondering if you can solve a mystery for me.”
Confused, I rubbed my eyes and sat at the table.
“I’ve just spoken to Aunt Mary on the phone,” my mother explained, “and she told me the most magnificent tale.”
“Really?” I replied, anxious about what she might say next.
My mother’s smile grew even more. “Yes,” she said. “She told me about her Christmas Lights being broken… The ones hanging outside her house. But when she rose this morning, she discovered that they were lit. She said they were shining more than they ever had before.”
“That’s good news,” I grunted, reaching for the box of cereal.
“It is good news. Your Aunt Mary has been troubled lately. I haven’t heard her sound that happy in months. And do you know what else she told me?”
“No,” I said, confident that I did know.
My mother inched closer to the table. “She said that when she opened her front door this morning, she also discovered a wonderful letter… written by you. You had written so many lovely things, she said, all about how much you missed her. Aunt Mary said it filled her with joy.”
I offered a weak grin and nodded. “Oh. That’s amazing. I’m so pleased she got my letter.”
“Indeed, she did,” said my mother. “But the strange thing is… it had no envelope. Aunt Mary said the letter looked as though it had been hand-delivered. I told her that wasn’t possible, but I still don’t understand how your letter found its way to her house.”
“I guess we’ll never know,” I giggled. “It must be magic. Christmas magic. After all, everyone needs a little light at Christmas.”