It's a simple string of Christmas lights containing 50 all clear bulbs. We've never used it, preferring multi-colored lights, but it's still in our decoration box (or rather one of our decoration boxes). There is nothing special about this string. Strings like this are available at almost any store that sells decorations.
Each year as I pull out the lights to decorate our Christmas tree this set of lights makes me smile. Many years ago we belonged to a neighborhood gay and lesbian group (GLOW) which held potlucks each month. In December GLOW spiced up the potluck with a Yankee Swap.
For those who have never experienced a Yankee Swap let me explain. Each person brings a small wrapped gift. Each person participating is given a number. The person with number 1 selects and opens a gift. Then number 2 selects and opens a gift. At this point the person with number 2 can either keep the gift they opened or swap it for the gift number 1 has. This continues until everyone has opened a gift. As things get further along each person who has a gift taken away can choose to swap with another person, though not the one who just swapped with them, before moving to the next number. At that point the person with number 1 gets to select any of the gifts. There may be variations depending on the specifics of the particular swap - gag gifts vs. useful things. Some swaps require that number 2 decide whether to take number 1s gift or open another before actually opening another. I know of one group that requires the participants to bring the worst gift they received the year before- rumor has it that there is one gift that has been at each of their Yankee swaps each year. The Yankee swap which GLOW did was always a lot of fun - lots of laughing, though we rarely came away with anything we really wanted or needed.
Which brings me back to the string of white lights in our decoration box. At one of the last Yankee swaps that GLOW held our friend Robert ended up with this box of lights. Robert is Jewish and didn't have a use for the lights, so after the swap he gave them to us. I think Amy gave him the gift she'd ended up with. The lights got stowed away with our decorations and there they have stayed. Each time I open that box I think of Robert.
Robert has been a true blue friend over the years. We don't see him often - usually only at our Passover Seder and when we have parties. He does call every once in a while just to check in. We haven't seen Robert much in the last couple of years. He's been battling cancer and has been too tired for much socializing. He did do me a huge favor just over a year ago, and despite the ravages of the treatment he helped me buy my car (he makes his living helping people buy cars), but we only saw each other once during that process.
The other night as I pulled out the lights for our Christmas tree I came upon that box of clear lights, and smiled thinking of our friend. Before continuing on with the decorating I took a moment to think about Robert and all of the love he's given us over the years. We may never use those lights, but they'll stay in that box - a yearly reminder of our friendship with Robert.