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Washington Voices

Blue lights convey holiday hope

Sat., Dec. 18, 2010

Self-discovery is rarely easy, particularly when a big, wrinkled Macy’s bag becomes the bearer of such tidings of truth.

For years, I’ve used boxes and bags to store holiday decor, hence the aforementioned Macy’s bag. And for years, I was the consummate holiday decorator enticing the eye with an array of lights and trees, holly and garland. Being younger and having kids were motivators in creating the Hallmark holiday home, on the inside at least. Outside decorations were best left to natural means.

Chalk it up to age-appropriate rebelliousness or a tad too much spiked eggnog, but one winter I defied the decorating hoopla and went on strike. After 30 years of dragging trinkets out and putting them away, it just seemed the right thing to do. That year, not a light burned brightly yet the festive spirit remained.

A new seasonal tradition emerged and every year after the turkey feast, I start poking about the holiday trinket stash to see if this is a decorating season or one best left to festive spiriting.

This year, the traditional dig through the holiday cheer began in earnest as I sought out items that stirred a meaningful remembrance, invoked cheer, or were just too cute to leave stuffed away when, what to my wondering eyes should spill from a big, wrinkled Macy’s bag, but tiny blue lights.

Tiny blue lights? It took a few seconds to remember.

A year ago, Washington was reeling from unthinkable violence. In October 2009, a Seattle police officer was gunned down in a drive-by shooting. One month later, four Lakewood police officers were in a coffee house doing paperwork at the start of their shifts when a lone gunman ended a multitude of hopes and dreams in moments.

Word of the tragedies spread like a deep crack in an ice pond. The Internet lit up with heroic anecdotes; some touching and to the point, others superficial bordering on the ridiculous. One showed angels lifting the officers to hero heaven. Yes, we have a tendency to go over the top when emotions run high but from the tugging of shocked heartstrings came one dignified symbol of appreciation and respect.

And so, in the dead of winter last year, we headed out, purchased the tiny blue lights and placed them in garland atop the front porch railing. It was a small symbol that held immense meaning.

A year later, the same blue lights, tangled in their cushion of greenery, tumbled from a Macy’s bag along with a really neat light controller. Outside, massive flakes of snow blanketed the front porch. I stared at the lights and wondered if they held the same meaning as a year ago.

Hundreds of police officers from around the country and Canada came to Washington for the memorial service. Thousands of mourners lined the streets that day but there were no answers to these mindless tragedies; there was only the reminder that with every uniform, badge and duty belt come unimaginable risks.

This thought runs through my mind constantly.

It’s not easy having police officers in your immediate family. Unexpected calls quicken the pulse. I don’t want to hear those words; don’t want the what-ifs to become a reality. I’m proud of them and I fear for them.

In the final analysis of significant holiday decorations however, these tiny blue lights will find their place among the select few trinkets displayed. They’ll be a yearly reminder to those who catch their subtle gist, that it’s not so easy being a cop where service, pride and dedication get muddled in split-second decisions and where the simple act of sitting in a coffee shop can turn deadly.

As I said, self-discovery, particularly when it arrives in a big, wrinkled Macy’s bag, isn’t always easy but it’s always necessary.

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