It’s an odd quirk of the calendar that had us planning our Chanukah get-together with friends on Christmas eve. But the Saturday evening before was too early and the Saturday after was too late.

So we brought some wine and shared in some good food and conversation in a quiet evening with our extended suburban family, the ones who hadn’t gone off to Christmas dinners leaving us few to light the remaining candles on an ancient bronze menorah.

Stuffed with corned beef and home made latkes – my favorite being the “burnies” that are left in the frying pan a bit too long – and now carrying “care” packages of dessert with us as we left for an early evening at home.

We had forgotten to leave any lights on so the headlights of our car bounced off the watchful eyes of Kitty in the living room window. Once we got inside, Belle whined and jumped while Pepper looked on regally from her corner bed.

We settled in for an evening of Sunday papers on Saturday night and the book I’ve been trying to keep up with. Finally, having reached the end of our energy for the day, I stood up and put on my jacket to take Pepper out before we all retired.

With her hearing gone, I had to come up on her slowly as she slept so she wouldn’t be startled. I stroked an ear with the tip of my finger until her eyes opened and she saw it was me ready for our walk. I moved to the front door and waited with the leash as I saw Pepper slowly get up out of her bed, shake off some sleep, and begin walking towards me for the last out of the evening.

Her arthritis has moved in quickly while all else has slowed down and I could see that she was frustrated by the pain and stiffness in her legs. So, for the first time, I wandered back, and cradling her backside in the bend of one arm, and her chest in the bend of the other, I hugged her close while walking towards the front door, the leash dragging on the floor. Before putting her down, I kissed her between the shoulders and left my head against hers just a beat longer.

Outside she was better, the cold seemed to calm down her joints. She doesn’t walk far these days and generally looks for her spot on the front lawn not far from the front of the house. While she poked around I happened to look up and saw an odd orange globe in the sky.

At first I thought it was a plane since we’re in a jet lane for an international airport miles away. But the orange globe wasn’t moving. And then began flickering.

I dropped the leash and ran back to the front door and called for my wife. She came out, looked up, and puzzled a bit herself, adding it might just be a planet, and I thought I would have to look that up in the newspaper’s published star pattern. But then, slowly, it flickered out.

Excitement over, my wife walked back inside, and I picked up the leash so Pepper and I could continue our short walk down the block.

Then I saw another orange globe, this one lazily moving and flickering over the tree tops of the neighborhood. I thought I could see the barest of flames as it glowed orange thru its covering shroud. It held its place for a minute or two, and then like it’s mate, slowly flickered out.

Pepper and I returned inside and although we all went to bed, I kept thinking about that floating orange globe. This morning, I searched for news of errant stars or meteors, but ended up discovering that it was a paper lantern often used at festivals, a sort of lazy, thoughtful firework to float in the sky, held aloft by the heat of a flame like a miniature hot air balloon.

Looking further, there are actually different classes of these lanterns, with one, possibly the one I saw, called a “baby’s bottom”, often used with Christmas lights.

As a Jewish boy from Brooklyn now living in the suburbs of Long Island, I still wonder at the rituals this time of year. One religion or another doesn’t matter to me, whether it’s the crèche on the front lawn or the menorah in the window. Or a simple orange globe hovering overhead against the backdrop of a star driven night sky…