It was somewhere around my middle-school years that I came up with what I thought was an astounding idea for a holiday project. I mused over it for a few days and then proposed the idea to my parents. I offered my labor in putting up Christmas lights on the house, garage and front bushes if Mom and Dad would foot the bill for the lights and other stuff I would have to buy if this was to happen.
I was given free reign! I had a blast buying everything “we” needed for the project: new lights for the roof and garage, plenty of extension cords and then, for the six to seven bushes at the front of the house, plenty of lights to cover them with little twinkling sparkles of colored goodness–all in the hopes that they would be seen through an inch or two of fresh snow some time that season (there’s nothing like seeing the subtle glow of Christmas lights through a fresh blanket of snow!).
But then my inexperience kicked in. Me being the virgin Christmas-lights-putter-upper, I had all of the lights on the bushes plugged together with a single outdoor extension cord supplying the power. That resulted in the constant blowing out of single lights here and there, with the occasional blowing of a whole strand. I would come home from school and plug the lights in at dusk only to find another strand of lights wasn’t working (usually due to one nefarious blown-out bulb that refused to identify itself). And back then, you didn’t have the “one-light-out-and-the -strand-stays-lit” light sets that are out there today. No sir. It was either throwing the whole stinkin’ light strand away just so I wouldn’t have to mess with it or going through each light to see if it worked or not. So inevitably I would be found outside with a flashlight in one hand and a new bulb in the other, following the circles of darkened lights draped upon any one of the many bushes out front. With snotcicles forming under my nose, I would try to pry with my cold numb fingers (because–of course–you can’t perform that task with gloves on) each tiny bulb from its peaceful nest within the strand without breaking it–only to find that as soon as I did find the nasty culprit and replace it, a totally different strand would blow shortly afterwards.
Well, many years have come and gone since then–with every Christmas season seeing me outside and up on the roof getting the lights situated on the house and surrounding landscape. It went from the lights at my parents’ house up through my mid-twenties to my own house for a few years to the house my wife and I have been in since we got married fourteen years ago. The concern of having too many strands of lights plugged in together and blowing bulbs or fuses is no longer an issue. Now, instead of having four or five strands plugged in together and blowing lightbulbs, I have LED lights that actually tell you not to plug more than thirty strands of lights together at one time.
And now I find myself instilling the same tradition in my boys. We just finished getting the lights up for this Christmas season on Thanksgiving morning. My boys are soon-to-be 11 and just-over 12 and they both already have plenty of memories of helping me up on the roof with Christmas lights. (Granted, the first few years of them being old enough saw them only coming up on the roof for a picture or to “help me” by just sitting in one spot and not moving. But now they can actually help!)
Their help this time cut what has taken 7 to 8 hours of time in past attempts at hanging the lights down to 3 1/2 hours. I was very happy! And they look wonderful. I don’t have a recent picture, but here’s one that is very similar to what we just did:
They’ve been bugging my wife all week about “getting the lights up”. And all morning while we were up on the roof, I heard both of them talk about how much they love putting up the Christmas lights and that they can’t wait to be doing this with their kids.
And so it lives on!