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.