My father loves Christmas lights. Loves them. Has always loved them, as far as I know. As soon as the chairs have been pushed back from the Thanksgiving table, he starts rubbing his hands in anticipation of draping strings of colored lights over anything stationary. He’s one of the few who actually enjoys the whole process, too, not just the end result. He enjoys trooping back and forth to the hardware store to get extra extension cords, and he enjoys figuring out which burned-out bulb is grounding the whole strand.
In fact, I can’t remember a time when our house was not bedecked in twinkling lights for the entire month of December. There were even a few years when Dad got really creative; he spelled out actual words on the bushes with strings of lights. One year, it was NOEL. Another year, PEACE. The neighbors were used to us by then. Random passersby probably wondered how those hippies got stranded so far out in the suburbs.
But that was Dad’s thing. When my family moved to Nashville a few years ago, we assigned the task of hanging Christmas lights on our new house to my father. While everyone else digested or cleaned, he was untangling cords and linking up strings and replacing bulbs. If we’d let him, he’d have climbed a ladder and draped them on the tall holly trees at either end of the house, but I ordered…er, strongly advised…him not to do that. But we just let him have his fun, and at the end of the evening, the bushes in the front yard were all dressed up with lights for the holidays. Every year since then, it’s been his job.
Except this year. A couple of months ago, Mom and Dad bought a house a few miles away from here. So they spent most of last week moving things into their new house. They had to leave on Friday morning, so they were busy unpacking boxes on Thanksgiving night. Dad didn’t get a chance to dive into the giant plastic bin of lights and cords for me. So I had to do the lighting myself.
On Saturday afternoon, I gamely dragged my bin of gear out to the front sidewalk and surveyed the rest of the street. My neighbors on one side were working methodically to create a lighting display that could win awards. One holly tree was wrapped in a series of alternating red rope lights and twinkling white lights, to give the appearance of a giant illuminated piece of peppermint candy. Miniature lighted trees lined their front walk, and a pair of motorized deer twinkled from the flowerbed. On the other side, another neighbor was rigging up his yard displays. Santa, snowmen, penguins…they’re all there. For good measure, he had hauled out his tall ladder and draped long strings of those giant retro bulbs from the trees in the front yard, too.
I sighed. I managed to drape a few nets of colored LED lights on the holly bushes and a few strings on the round boxwoods by the front porch, but that was pretty much all I could do. Even that was a major accomplishment; I had little tiny pricks all over my fingers from the stickers on those stubborn old holly bushes, and I had grimly surrendered after tangling with them too many times. My five-year-old asked wistfully if there was any way we could hang lights from the empty branches of our sycamore trees, too. I told him that I’d have to read up on our disability insurance first. Meanwhile, I silently thanked the neighborhood HOA for not setting out specific rules on Christmas lights, as some HOAs do. Because if they had, well, I think there’s a pretty good chance mine wouldn’t make the grade.
But who cares? We have lights! They’re colorful! They’re cheerful! They’re energy efficient! They were cheap! (I always wait ’til they’re marked down and then buy them.) So what if they won’t win any awards? So what if my attempts to decorate are rather painfully amateurish? We have lights, right? I even have them on a timer. Not bad for an amateur like me.
Maybe next year I can do more. Or, even better, maybe next year, Dad will be available again….