Sometimes Christmas lights are more than Christmas lights.

Sometimes they help us to connect in a special way. Or maybe they prompt us to contemplate.

And in at least one case, Christmas lights are therapy.

For Fred and Angel Grant of Weatherly, the yuletide display carries much deeper significance and plays a more important role than most folks' holiday lights.

The glow outside of the Grant house provides a spark of awareness, a boost of inspiration, and a touch of comfort for one of their children.

At birth, Roman Grant, struggled to survive.

"We almost lost him due to a stroke," says Angel Grant. "He was left with mental and physical disabilities. He suffered severe visual defects."

It was a time of uncertainty. Things were touch and go.

But one day Grant discovered something. Her baby's eyes reacted to a string of colorful novelty lights placed over the crib.

"We noticed he tracked and responded favorably," she says. "And from that single strand of lights our holiday display adventure began. By the time he was a toddler, we had created a room filled with sensory-rich lights and objects inspired by the Snoezelen rooms used in Europe for therapy with the mentally handicapped.

"Then we strung lights in the living room which was converted into a Montessori-style, home-school classroom. Over the years, the lights filled our home, spilled out onto the porch and into the yard," she says.

The effort is important because it helps Roman, who, at 22, battles even greater odds.

He was diagnosed with autism and cerebral palsy.

For some reason, though, the glow of bright colors has a soothing effect. He enjoys the Christmas display with brother Willem, 5, and it helps him to find inner peace.

The Grant house, a raised ranch at 40 Church St., sits on a steep hillside in front of the historic Schwab School at town center, giving their display height and visibility.

The unusual showcase includes 450 blow-molds, large plastic ornaments. Many are vintage, carefully used in scenery handcrafted by Fred, employed as business development manager for DeAngelo Bros., Hazleton.

Truth be told, the family owns another 550 blow-molds, 1,000 in all, but the others are used at Halloween.



The Grants developed an affinity for blow-molds years ago.

Blow-molded plastic lawn ornaments have been made since the 1940s. They were popularized in the 50s by the iconic pink flamingo.

"Some consider them tacky," Grant says, but they and others love their simplicity and durability.

Blow-molds are still available to a degree, but few blow-mold companies remain, Grant says.

She attaches a bracket to the rear of each, allowing the ornament to be staked into the ground with steel rods.

The Grant extravaganza includes countless Santas and snowmen. It also features more candy canes than the North Pole and more penguins than the South Pole.

"We love penguins. We're fans of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (hockey team). They've been very good to us and Roman," Grant says.

"Our display is static, meaning it doesn't blink to music," she says. "It's designed as a walk-through for the perspective of a kid. The main theme is a holiday town and the yard is filled with a variety of scenes with funny blow-mold characters that live in the fantasy town.

"Our holiday displays are a work-in-progress and we add new scenes each year. They truly are a labor of love. Why do we do this? To be honest, it amuses the heck out of us, and for the joy of our children, and to bring pleasure and sweet memories to the children in our community. Most importantly, what drives us each year is the smile on the face and to hear the laughter of some special child living through life's challenges."

And that's exactly what happened while photos were being taken for this story.

An SUV stopped in front of the Grant house. It was neighbor Susie Lovett who brought along children to take in the display, including son Ryan, a child with Down syndrome. Ryan reacted with glee as he approached the bright colors.

"This is the best," said appreciative Lovett. "I don't know how Angel does it. We just love looking at these Christmas lights. The work she does is unbelievable."

But for Fred and Angel, the ultimate compliment comes from the person of fewest words.

Bundled in quilted coat, Roman wanders out the front door, clutching a miniature blow-mold Santa.

He stops and stares at a rainbow of lighted candy canes and lollipops. His face lights up and his heart fills with joy.

"I think they're great!" Roman says, his face beaming brighter than the ornaments.

The lights impart a special holiday message to someone who's visually impaired.

Roman's smile, all by itself, is enough to illuminate Christmas. The glow of the blow-molds is simply icing on the cake.

"I love you," he says, his eyes a twinkle in cold night air. But it's time to go back inside to the comfort of a warm house.

It's Candyland Christmas at the Grant place, and God's colors are shining bright.