Each Christmas season Anna and Rose looked forward to the family tradition of driving to the "light house," a farmhouse that was covered from top to bottom with Christmas lights. When it came into view, they would cry, "Drive slower!" "Turn around!" "Go back!" One drive past all the lights that blinked and winked and flashed and chased was never enough.

On the first day of December the girls were eager to see the light house again.

"Can we go to the light house tonight?" Anna asked.

"It's a little too early," Mom said.

"We'll go there when it's a bit closer to Christmas," Dad said.

Rose and Anna decided to go to their room and practice saying "ooh!" and "aah!" They wanted to be ready when the time came.

Finally, it was time to see the lights. The girls eagerly climbed into the car with their parents. As Dad drove, Anna leaned forward and sang, " `Jingle bells, jingle bells,' " in his right ear while Rose belted out, " `Now bring us some figgy pudding,' " in Mom's left ear.

"How about a little `Silent Night'?" Dad asked with a smile.

Looking down the street, Mom frowned and asked, "Are you sure you turned on the right road?"

"Of course," Dad replied.

"But I can't see any lights up ahead," Anna said.

"It's dark!" Rose cried.

"I wonder what could be wrong," Mom said.

"Maybe they got tired of stringing up all those lights," Dad said.

"I don't think so," Mom replied. "Just last week my friend Marsha said she saw Mr. and Mrs. Watt outside, and Mr. Watt was climbing up a ladder with some lights."

"I wanted to say, `Ooh,' " Rose said disappointedly.

"And I wanted to say `Aah,' " Anna said.

"Maybe they forgot to turn them on or they had to go away tonight. We'll come back tomorrow night," Dad said.

When the family drove to the farmhouse the next night, it was still dark.

Mom frowned. "I don't like this. I think there might be something wrong."

"Maybe they went away for the holidays." Rose sighed.

"Or maybe the light bill was too expensive," Dad suggested.

Anna whispered, "What if they died?"

Mom smiled and said, "I don't think so, dear."

The next day Anna and Rose were sifting through the newspaper to find the comics. Suddenly Rose exclaimed, "Look!" She pointed to a picture of the light house.

"Let me see," Dad said. Everyone gathered around him as he read, " `Families will have to miss the much anticipated tradition of viewing the thousands of lights at the country home of Mr. and Mrs. Watt. Mr. Watt is recovering from surgery at a local hospital. Mrs. Watt said, "Christmas won't be the same without all the folks driving by our place this year." ' "

Disappointed, Rose and Anna went to their room. But a while later they came rushing back with smiles on their faces.

"Remember when you and Dad helped build the school playground?" Anna asked Mom.

"And a bunch of other moms and dads helped?" Rose added.

With puzzled looks, Mom and Dad nodded their heads in agreement. Then, slowly, big smiles spread across their faces, too.

"Wouldn't that be a wonderful surprise!" Mom declared. "I'll call around and see if I can get us some help."

On the long drive home from the hospital on Christmas Eve, Mrs. Watt sighed as she caught sight of several light displays.

"Next year will be different, dear. We'll get the lights up for sure next Christmas," Mr. Watt promised.

"Oh, my," said Mrs. Watt, "there's a lot of traffic on our road tonight. Word must not have reached everyone that there are no lights this year."

As their house came into view, Mrs. Watt gasped. Every window, every door, and even the garden gate were strung with colored lights. Birdhouses, doghouses, pine trees, big barns, little barns, toolsheds, and even the silo were aglow with lights. Nestled in the snow, from the mailbox to the garage, paper sacks filled with candles lighted the pathway home. And a giant Christmas card hung from the front door that read:

"Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

From your friends."

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