Untangling the Magic of the Holidays
by Grace Herndon
Dec 23, 2008 | 1031 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Our outdoor holiday lights are austerely modest compared to lots of other light displays. Not only that, but for several winters recently, we haven’t managed to gather them up and put the whole bunch away until the next year. So, it was no big deal to plug in the strings of lights that still festooned the big, low-growing evergreen that pretends to grace our house, leading to our front door.

Hmmm. Once connected, we immediately observed that the strings of lights had rearranged themselves. All the twinkling little dots now shone in just the lower half of this big, thick evergreen. So big, in fact, that over the years it’s totally obscured the narrow sidewalk that once led to the front door. So, to keep up, every few years we’d added more lights – still nothing showy. But sparkling through a glistening cover of new fallen snow, we liked to think of our holiday scene as, well, somewhat classy.

No big deal, we figured, to take down the four or five long strings of non-functioning lights entwined in the upper branches of the shrub – now about shoulder high – rearrange the lower strings of lights that were still functioning and – voila! – we’d have it.

Naturally, it was late on a cold winter afternoon with a chill wind when, a week or so ago, we tackled the repairs. Our small Wright’s Mesa ranch house is surrounded by wide-open hay fields and pastures, giving winter winds free play. In fact, it’s always seemed exciting to see the snow drifts piling up, wondering if we’d be truly snowbound even for a few hours.

But, never mind the cold wind and the gray skies, we’d take down the bad strings of lights, take them inside and check out the problems there – in the warmth. Steve, ever the old Navy man (WWII) and cowman, carefully looped the strings of lights around his hand – lariat style – while I more or less laid out my haul in a straight line. I’d just drag them in the front door, through our small greenhouse front porch, and into the house. Like I’d said, no big deal.

Well, it turned out that neither method outwitted those tangle-prone strings of lights. Every foot or two, my strings caught on a doorframe, requiring me to go back and disengage each little bulb from its snare. Meanwhile, cold air blasted in through the two open front doors. Once Steve put his coil of lights on the floor, they immediately turned into a tangled nest. In time, we sorted it all out. All the lights are up now, spreading their modest holiday cheer to any and all passers-by on this county road. But, when I drive by other country homes, with their magnificent displays – tall trees sparkling with those tiny little lights, fences and roofs outlined, lighted critters, and holy scenes – I salute these homeowners’ ingenuity – and patience.

Still, I truly love holiday lights. As a child growing up in Chicago, the city’s displays – the downtown stores (the elegant Marshall Field’s and Carson Pirie Scott, now long gone) were absolute magic. And so I always felt our kids, growing up on a ranch outside of Norwood, were missing one of childhood’s thrilling events – big city Christmas lights. But this little town and its three-block long main street, however, did its best. With the help of the local power company, holiday lights were draped around light poles and sometimes across Main Street. Stores, the one or two small restaurants and service stations added bright holiday touches.

For our three ranch kids, it was a joyful and exciting time, driving into town on a dark, wintry night, and for the first time that season, seeing Norwood’s truly modest holiday lights. Our oldest son, Dave, perhaps 10 or 12, pressing his nose to the car window, said solemnly, “I wouldn’t want to live in a town that didn’t have Christmas lights.” Moral to this story: viewpoint is everything. Happy holidays everyone!
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