Sunday night lights

four-treesPoor Mike came in last night in a huff from fighting his annual battle with our Christmas lights.

What we now call the Markley Holiday Lights Smack Down usually happens something like this:

Step 1: Everybody else in the neighborhood puts up their lights.

Some of our neighbors trace the eaves of their homes with perfectly straight lines. They artfully drape various and sundry trees and shrubs with tasteful strands of LEDs. Others barf up a maelstrom of seizure-inducing twinkle-rama the likes of which would make the Griswold’s cringe. We have all types.

Step 2: We all (except Mike) ohh and ahh about everybody else’s Christmas lights.

Step 3: Mike declares we’re not having Christmas lights this year.

We don’t worry. He’s tried this before. The year my grandmother started living with us, she was incensed by his declaration. We had a baby and a toddler in the house and we were going to have Christmas lights, by God.

Neither the baby nor the toddler minded either way, of course. It was a grandma thing.

She had me hire some landscape company to put up Christmas lights on her dime. Seven HUNDRED dollars later, we had kind of a “meh” holiday lights display going on, but at least Mike didn’t have to do it.

But seven HUNDRED dollars for a few strands of blinking blinkdom? There was no call for that.

Step 4: Mike procrastinates as long as possible, then trudges out to the garage because the neighbor’s been out all day getting his lights up and Mike’s feeling guilty. After a few minutes of listening to him throw things around and swear, I send one of the kids out to see if he can help. Because I’m a giver.

Step 5: Kid comes back in. “Dad says this is a one-person job.” Announces that his intention to work hard in the semi-cold has earned him a hot chocolate. I comply (because the giving thing).

Step 6: More banging and profanity from the garage. If I poke my head out, I can make out some of what he’s saying in more detail …

“… put men on the freaking moon. How much money do I pay every year? I’ll tell you, 50 to 75 bucks easy, every year, for new lights. Maybe that’s the business ….”

Last year, thirteen strands of lights adorned the tree at the end of the driveway. Thirteen strands of lights is what Mike painstakingly put in the bin to store away for the eight months we don’t have the lights up on our house (yes, you read that right, our lights go up with all kinds of fanfare, and they stay put until Easter). That lit up tree is beautiful, really, truly spectacular. When you come at us from either direction, because of the way the street curves, it’s the first thing you see: this perfectly shaped spruce with white lights.

The thing has been getting bigger every year, as such things will, requiring more and more strands and taller and taller ladders.

Last year, Mike went back to the store twice for more strands of white lights. Thirteen total strands, 150 lights each. That makes roughly …. a whole bunch of lights, if my calculations are correct.

Of the thirteen strands of lights he painstakingly stowed last year from that tree, Mike discovered yesterday a full one and a half still worked.

Then there were the lights on the front of the house. One strand apparently wasn’t fully functional when Mike put it away last Easter, which is something he forgot until he strung them up again. As of last night, about 4/5ths of the lights on the front of our house were working, peetering off about a third of the way across the garage. That’s the side where the porch light was burned out anyway, leaving that side of the house to just disappear into darkness.

Step 7: Everyone gathers outside to inspect. No matter what things end up looking like, we’re duly impressed and effusive.

The lights on the porch were wonky, because apparently you can’t get exactly the same multicolored icicle strands on different trips to the store. One strand blinked, languidly, on and off for no apparent reason. This was probably going to make me crazy, but not as crazy as I would have to be to say anything as I was outside inspecting, and Mike was recounting his epic battle, and our tree had one full ring of white lights around the bottom, our garage faded off into nowhere, and our not so matchy-matchy porch rail blinked at me, sleepily from one side.

I think the way everyone was feeling right at that point could be perfectly summed up by the neighbor, who, having been outside at least twice as long as my husband, chose that moment to slam the ladder back into the garage and respond to what I’m sure was a polite inquiry from the far side of his house from us.

“God dammit, If you want them down, now, then you take them down.”


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Did you already do the lights thing this year? Do you skip it all together? Does it threaten your family harmony? Hit me.

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  1. oh my goodness, this one cracked me up (most of them do), but only because it\’s EXACTLY what happens at my house. This would be that week, except my husband conveniently scheduled a work trip and won\’t be back until Friday late. When he called I said, \”And then we can put up the lights!\” (we means him, but I do bring him a beer when the going gets rough). He acted like he didn\’t hear me and launched in to some boring story of the work dinner they\’re having tonight. Ugh.

    1. Oh, the passive-aggressive response. Yup, I get that too. I do find that a cold beer afterward (or mid-way through) does deaden the pain somewhat.

  2. When my kids were younger, it was a big deal to them for us to have Christmas lights put up. I remember how fascinated they were. They were so excited to come home after dark just to see our house and front yard decorated in lights. Sometimes they\’d run down to the end of the driveway, just to turn and face the house and soak in all the beauty and wonder of those Christmas lights.

    I wish I could re capture those sweet sentiments! Now they\’re teenagers, and the enjoyment of Christmas lights is not worth the hassle of having to help put them up. Unfortunately, it would be illegal to bribe them with beer like you could with a husband! So no outdoor Christmas lights at my house this year. So sad. 🙁

    1. Oh, I\’m sorry they\’re not interested enough anymore to help with the set up. And no, beer would probably not be a good idea.

      Come to think of it, the lights are mostly for me, anyhow. I guess if we thought too much about any of this stuff we wouldn\’t do it.

  3. Love this. Our Christmas light adventures? Eh, we have some strung up in an apple tree in our yard that we leave up all year. Then we just plug them in around this time. Amazingly, they usually work.

    1. That is brilliant! Bravo. We have crankpots in our \’hood who get mad if we leave the lights up all year long. We do tend to push the envelope, though…

  4. THIS…made me laugh out loud. Why? Because I grew up with a father like this. Tis the season for expletives, frustration and yelling when it comes down to decorating the house. It\’s one of those things that always makes for a funny story (well, the rest of us laugh… dad does not) and I wouldn\’t have it any other way. Great post!

    1. Thank you! I\’m glad it did. I remember my dad having issues with the tree every year, and we\’re keeping that tradition, too. Have to spread out the joy over multiple weekends, though, so decorating is next week.

  5. Um, are you SURE Mike\’s actual name isn\’t Joe? Because you just described my husband under the same circumstances!

  6. My husband inconsistently maybe will get lights in the bushes, so far nada this year, and he claims it\’s not worth life and limb to do the eaves since they\’re so high. Something about plunging to his death on the ladder.