Friday, December 16, 2011

Silent Night with Blinking Lights*

Before I was married, I was unaware of the theological differences between my husband and me on the acceptability of blinking versus steady Christmas lights.  I'd grown up with referring to such things as nervous lights, lights that couldn't commit, and liked color but wanted steadiness, taseful color that would show a touch of professionalism that my life otherwise lacked.

He loved lots of lights and blinking displays. He wanted it fun for the kids.    Renting a place in our early marriage delayed my discovery of this seasonal difference of opinion. So when we bought our first home a few years later and icicle lights were all the rage, I happily imagined our home in the soft glow of white dripping lights for the holidays.

"Let's decorate! You do the inside, we'll do the out." he proposed.  And we were off to the races. Half an hour later, he came in for the keys.  "We need more." he explained. 

I suggested that I’d make cookies and hot chocolate for everyone. They were a happy and willing army to “deck the halls.” Equally blissful, I put on my red Christmas apron and cut some slice in bake sugar cookies and made cocoa. I sighed in happiness at the prospect of this Christmas memory in the making.

Then, I looked outside.

There was a string of blue connected to a fluttering string of red and gold that meandered through the lower part of a tree and then wrapped a trunk and draped in artful bows, green, yellow and orange. A second tree was wrapped in white with a red, white and blue trailer that rippled on and off. Lit candy canes were propped in the ground, some at a 30 or 75 degree angles, some two feet apart, others, two inches.

“Isn’t this great?” My oldest son beamed. “I got to use the ladder.”
Sublimation is good for the soul. Seeing the real light of Christmas in the flashing lights in my children’s eyes, I surrendered my vanity to the blinking chaos that engulfed my yard. I figured, “They’re only young once.” I can get my pretty picture some other time.

The next year, I still wanted my vision of a white light Christmas. So I started putting out the lights myself, making a sacrifice and enduring icy cold but not snow inducing weather. Having covered all of the leafless bushes with nets of white, I left them on to surprise my husband. “Good honey, you started the lights.” He said when he came home.

“Is it time to decorate the house Dad?” my oldest daughter asked while the other ones went scrambling for mittens and coats. Within the hour, the house was festooned with hanging globes and stars, a rope of lights that bridged two trees and a separate tree with lights draped around the outer branches that blinked in three separate patterns. I served the Christmas cookies and thought, “Maybe next year.”

The third year, our neighbor across the street upped the ante by placing large lit trees and moving deer on his yard the day after Thanksgiving. He wrapped his trees and lined his driveway in a dazzlingly colorful if inelegant display. Now thoroughly indoctrinated with the idea that this was how to celebrate Christmas, my kids tripped the entire yard with lights. The candy canes were back. A blinking rope snaked around the mail box. The 30 foot pine was no obstacle. The kids tied the end of a strand of lights to a stick and their 6’2’’ hero dad climbed up the 18 foot ladder and heaved the stick over the top repeatedly. For the next four weeks, the two houses engaged in a silent happy Christmas war, adding additional blinking somethings to top whatever the other family had done until December 24th. Having lost once again, I handed out the cookies and fretted. This was becoming a tradition.

Then we moved.

Our new home had an HOA policy, where all the “holiday” displays must be tasteful. Every house had the soft glow of unobtrusive lights I’d wanted. The kids dutifully put out the sweet white lights. Their dad took the colored ones and artfully draped three trees in the back. We handed out cookies and looked at all the quiet but lovely decorations. It was pretty. But the lights in their eyes weren’t quite right.

I put out the uneven blinking candy canes around the white Christmas lighted tree, and whoops of joy shattered the silent night. I’d been converted. Now it was Christmas.

*Originally run in Island Park News in December of 2008

1 comment:

MightyMom said...

dude. I will never live in a HOA. never.
I like my 8' inflatable Santa, my 3 strings of multicolored BIG lights and my grapevine angel with little white lights.

once I figure out how to get it to do this

I'll be a happy camper!!

by the way, we live WAY close to this house and are going to see the town square these people do every year in their city tomorrow or the next night.


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