The Christmas lights are up at our house

“This is the last year I’m doing this.”Lights2

That lofty ultimatum was issued by yours truly setting out to decorate for Christmas last Saturday. As hard as I tried otherwise, the “Bah Humbug” spirit just seemed to take over.

Dragging out all the lights and decorations; deciding which pieces of Yule cheer and what string of lights had one more year left in them; and what needed replacing; what would stay and what would go … it was overwhelming. I was pretty sure there was something I would rather be doing, maybe that root canal waiting at the dentist’s office.

An SUV load of large containers filled with “Christmas decorations past” rescued from storage buildings was supplemented by an equal sized SUV load of “Christmas decorations present” sourced from all over town. Braving rain looming on the horizon, I pressed on confident that I could produce one last encore performance to transform our corner into the Winter Wonderland envy of the neighborhood before hanging up the ladder and the staple gun.

“Why did I feel this way?” After due consideration, Ellen Griswold’s line in the movie modern classic, “Christmas Vacation,” said it best when she responded to her daughter with, “I don’t know what to say, except it’s Christmas and we’re all in misery.”

Don’t get me wrong. I like the Christmas season. I like everything about it. Everything except putting up the decorations. Perhaps I’ve reached that stage in life. You know the one, the “I’ve been doing this all my life and I don’t need the frustration any more” stage.

Undaunted, I set out Saturday to make my last time a good one. Surely nothing could be as bad as the year I strung lights across the front of our 100-plus-year-old Victorian home. Ceilings in the 1900 structure were 12 feet high, and the house sat a good four feet off the ground. The thrill of dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh can’t hold a candle to dangling lights above your head with one hand and operating a stapler with the other while standing atop a 20-foot ladder.

Attaching lights all the way across the front required a routine that was something like, climb the 20-foot ladder, staple as far as you can reach, go back down the ladder, move the ladder over ten feet, repeat the previous steps several times until all lights are securely affixed to the roof’s edge all the way across the front. Then plug the end of the strand into the extension cord.

And that’s where the project went south, when I discovered that it’s impossible to plug two matching ends of an electrical cord together.

The remedy for such a malady? Easy. Just repeat the above steps in reverse order to get the lights down, and then do it all over again starting with the opposite end, the one with the plug on it.

Despite that setback however, I continued to decorate the house and yard for several more Christmas seasons there before we moved across town to our current location. Any doubt I might have had about this being my last Christmas decoration was quickly dispelled before I finished when I (a.) found one brand new string of lights to be defective—after I had installed them (b.) accidentally cut another line and had to repair it; and (c.) climbed the ladder countless times only to discover the string of lights I was working with had wrapped itself around the bottom of the ladder. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the three trips back to town for “just one more “ extension cord.

All that behind me, I’m now happy to report that the Christmas lights and decorations are up at our house in Center, Texas.

Well, almost, but the few adjustment that will be made over the course of the next few days are standard procedure. Distributing seasonal festoons on the house, in the house, and around the yard is more of a journey than a destination.

Did they work you ask?

Clark Griswold: Russ, we checked every bulb, didn’t we?

Rusty Griswold: Sure, Dad.

Clark Griswold: Hmm … Maybe we ought to just go up there and check…

Rusty Griswold: Oh, woo. Look at the time. I gotta get to bed. I still gotta brush my teeth, feed the hog, still got some homework to do, still got those bills to pay, wash the car…

My electrical engineering skills are slightly less than Clark Griswold’s in the “Christmas Vacation” movie. Yes, I have a couple of extension cord and outlet splitter configurations that easily classify as an “electrician’s nightmare.” The good news is that when I plugged the last two strands together and sang, “Joy to the world…” the lights did come on and there was no reported decline in power at the generating station.

My last Christmas decorating endeavor complete, I stepped back into the darkness of the balmy Spring winter weather currently gripping East Texas to evaluate the results.

So, how did it look? Envision Clark Griswold declaring, “I dedicate this house to the Griswold Family Christmas.”

OK, so maybe I will do it another year or two.

—Leon Aldridge

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