I’m no Scrooge. I give money to the kids who hock candy door-to-door (seems as good a time as any to clean out the couch cushions), and this past Christmas season, I broke my tradition of not decorating our house with lights.
I had previously chosen not to decorate the house out of a desire to not test the generosity of my health-insurance plan (you fell off the roof from 30 feet up because you were dangling from the gutter by one hand while you tried to hook an 8-foot-tall snowman onto your roof? Do I have that right, Sir? Just want to make sure I have all the details right for the heckling–I mean–the adjustor’s benefit).
But when your five-year-old son comes up to you and says,”Dad, how come everyone else on the block has lights and our house is dark?–his voice equal parts Eeyore and person who was just told he has cancer–what are you going to do?
Recognizing that I was, once again, a pushover when it comes to making my kids happy, I started planning my display, and after much toiling, brow furrowing, pacing, swearing, and soul-searching, I finished my 15-minute planning session, bought a bunch of stuff at Menards, and started the project.
Having waited too long to have the benefit of warm weather, I found myself on our roof, snapping C9-bulb clips onto the gutters, blowing into my hands in-between bulbs like I was the freakin’ Big Bad Wolf, desperately trying to maintain some functionality.
Took me eight hours to get everything up, but I completed the display. Following is a summary of those eight hours.
Wrapping the bush in our front yard.
“Kids, get away from the street.”
Winding rope light around the two front porch supports.
“Kids, leave the extension cords alone.”
Festooning (that’s right: festooning. Knew Lord of the Flies would come in handy some day) strings between the support posts.
“Kids, stay off the railings. I don’t want to spend Christmas in the hospital.”
Staking lighted candy canes and snowmen on either side of the walkway leading to the porch.
“Kids, stay away from the street!”
Adding icicle lights on the porch roof gutters to complement the C9 lights on the second-level gutters.
“Stay off the ladder, please.”
Topping it all off with a running-lights wreath outside the attic windows, a wreath I attached to the house with steel brackets and bent clothes hanger wire. Freak hurricane preparation, ya see.
“STAY OFF THE LADDER!!!”
I got the display done, tested out the effectiveness of all the singing I’ve been doing (translation: LOTS of yelling), spent some … quality time with the kids, made our house shine, and witnessed pure joy on Will and Anna’s faces when I plugged everything in.
Hell, freakin’, yeah, Man!
Despite my years of choosing inactivity regarding outdoor holiday decor, I was proud of my accomplishment, and found myself planning what to do the following year.
Though I knew my modest 1,000-light display kicked the ass of every other display in the city, it was a family tradition to drive around with Amy’s parents and look at other, inferior displays, so a few days after I finished mine, a-driving we went.
There were some cool displays–a guy who’d sheathed his entire roof in lights, creating a pixel landscape on which he was running the lights back and forth in wave-like motion; someone who, without an inch to spare in his yard, may or may not have been advertising for the manufacturers of inflatable-figurines–and the kids seemed to be enjoying it.
So at one point somebody asked Will if he was going to decorate his house when he got older.
“No,” he said flatly.
“Why?” we all asked.
“Because it’s a lot of work, and you get really cold.”
My spirit is undampened, for I have raised a realist. Yes, Will, it is a lot of work, and you do get really cold, but when you see the light from your display reflected in the eyes of your children, things will change.
What we do for others defines us, and the joy of giving joy can only be experienced through unselfish action–well, maybe a little selfishness is ok.
After all, next year my display has to smoke all the bastards on my street.