Outdoor Illumination

Griswold-house-Christmas-Vacation-movie-in-lightsI miss all of the lights that used to glow all over my neighborhood. For some reason very few people near me are bothering to get enthusiastic about outdoor illumination this holiday season. My daughter’s neighborhood in Sugar Land has been glowing for weeks now, but mine is mostly dark save for the house across the street. I suspect that my husband Mike might have been willing to join the energy saving club had I not insisted that we were going to buck the trend and light up our little cul-de-sac with a bit more merriment. It took us longer than usual to accomplish this year because winter storms came making the task almost impossible. Eventually the sun returned and along with it came my resolve to deck our halls.

The first phase of the project involved climbing into the attic and crawling to its farthest reaches to retrieve the boxes holding all of our materials. Since my knees are a shell of their former selves I had to wear kneepads for this part of the venture. Then came the real fun which involved testing all of the strings of lights before hanging them. Invariably there will be a set or two that has somehow decided to die during the long hibernation period from one year to the next. Because I have no desire whatsoever to examine one hundred tiny bulbs to find the source of the problem I generally just toss the nonfunctioning array and substitute one of the new strings that I have purchased as soon as the Christmas items show up at Hobby Lobby along about August. I’ve learned the hard way that waiting until December is like playing Russian Roulette. The odds are very good that nothing will be left anywhere if I procrastinate, so I grab spares right away even though it feels strange to invest in Christmas gear when the temperature is hovering in the high nineties.

Once I have determined that all of the lights that we will use are in working order Mike and I get down to business. Mike has a routine that he follows to hang icicles along the fence line of our corner. He is quite meticulous. Each box is carefully labeled and stored in such a manner that there is rarely any problem with the procedure. My methodology is a bit more haphazard. I’m so ready to put Christmas away come January that I tend to just throw my lights into a big container where they manage to get tangled somehow. I utter more than a few naughty words as I struggle to untie the knots. Then I create a lovely twinkling pathway by scooting along the sidewalk on my bottom. Invariably I will be in the process of just finishing a section when half of the string decides to die. That’s when the real despicable language escapes from my mouth and I begin collecting demerits from Santa for my profanity.

Eventually we both manage to line the perimeter of our home with lovely twinkling lights that would be wonderful all alone but we have more to add. A jolly snowman sits at the edge of a flowerbed. He’s been bringing joy for years now. He used to blow away and end up dangling from his electrical cord in the middle of the yard but Mike finally found a way to keep him in place by tying him to a tall stake. He’s happy throughout the season now even though he looks a bit like a prisoner.

We place a lighted Christmas tree in the middle of the yard. It’s a wooden structure that is anchored into the ground. I keep an assortment of replacement lights for it because there always seems to be one or more that decide not to operate. I sometimes think that Mike would love to get rid of the display because it’s difficult to store. It won’t fit in the attic so it has to sit along the wall all year long getting in his way. He glares at it now and again, but puts up with the inconvenience because it’s one of my favorite things. After the tree is in place I bring out a set of lighted boxes that look like gifts that I set them lovingly in front the the tree.

Long ago my mother-in-law gave me some birthday money that I used to purchase a cute wooden Santa from a craft store in Beaumont. He’s a great little character that I set on the front porch. He has a few design flaws that have created some problems over the years. There is a little circle at the top of his cap that fell off almost as soon as I brought him home. We used glue, gorilla tape and all sorts of adhesives in an attempt to repair him but nothing has worked for very long. I think that Mike wonders why I keep Santa, but he understands how sentimental I am about the old fellow so this year he tried a new repair trick. He performed an operation on the old guy which he referred to as brain surgery, attaching the little ball with both a screw and some glue. It appears to be the fix for which we have long hoped. The only problem now is that a stiff wind has a tendency to topple St. Nick, so we have to place him in a corner out of the line of fire. So far all is good.

Thanks to Costco and my tutoring we were able to invest in a new wreath and lighted garland for the front door. The fresh new greenery happily gives the place a much needed uplift. Added to that was my idea to place an indoor tree on top of a table upstairs in front of the big window above the front door. It sets off the whole display quite well and brings balance to our efforts. Finally we installed a set of huge multicolored light bulbs along the sidewalk leading to our entryway. They are a bit comical and reminiscent of Whoville, but I love them.

Mike’s job is to get all of the illumination in sync with timers so that we don’t have to turn our handiwork on and off during the season. It automatically lights up the night each evening and politely darkens when it’s time to go to bed. Mostly it is a grand way to welcome visitors to our neighborhood and to spread cheer to our neighbors.

Mike and I aren’t the energetic kids that we once were. By the end of our work my back was screaming at me and asking why I was silly enough to do so much bending. I’ve filled the cuss jar to the brim with my outbursts that make Griswold appear to be a choir boy by comparison and Mike does his best Grinch impersonation mostly to play with me. When all is said and done we are always happy and proud that we did this one more time. I think our neighbors like it too.

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